Skip to main content

We're fighting for the future of our library in court. Show your support now!

Full text of "Tramping with tramps; studies and sketches of vagabond life"

See other formats

ny T^T)© rv 


With Tramps 

With Tramps 



Josiah Flynt 

With Prefatory Note by 
Hon. Andrew D. White 




New York 
The Century Co 






Copyright, 189a, 1894, 1895, 1899, 
by The Century Co. 

Copyright, 1894, 1895, by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 

Copyright, 1897, by the Forum Publiahing Co. 
Copyright, 1895, 1896, 1897, by Harper & Brothera. 

-^ NOV 1 7 1967 ^^ 

The DeVinne Press. 



Embassy of the United States of America, 
Berlin, April 19, 1899. 

Dear Mr. Flynt : 

Your letter of March 27 and accompanying articles 
have greatly interested me. 

As you know, I consider the problems furnished 
by crime in the United States as of the most press- 
ing importance. We are allowing a great and 
powerful criminal class to be developed, and while 
crime is held carefully in check in most European 
countries, and in them is steadily decreasing, with 
us it is more and more flourishing, increases from 
year to year, and in various ways asserts its power 
in society. 

So well is this coming to be known by the crimi- 
nal classes of Europe that it is perfectly well under- 
stood here that they look upon the United States as 
a " happy hunting-ground," and more and more 
seek it, to the detriment of our country and of all 
that we hold most dear in it. 

It seems to me that the publication of these arti- 
cles in book form will be of great value, as well as of 
fascinating interest to very many people. 
Yours faithfully, 

Andrew D. White, 

Mr. Josiah Flynt, 


During my university studies in Berlin I saw my 
fellow-students working in scientific laboratories to 
discover the minutest parasitic forms of life, and later 
publishing their discoveries in book form as valuable 
contributions to knowledge. In writing on what I 
have learned concerning human parasites by an ex- 
perience that may be called scientific in so far as it 
deals with the subject on its own ground and in its 
peculiar conditions and environment, I seem to myself 
to be doing similar work with a like purpose. This is 
my apology, if apology be necessary, for a book which 
attempts to give a picture of the tramp world, with 
incidental reference to causes and occasional sugges- 
tion of remedies. 

A majority of the papers in this volume have ap- 
peared in the " Century Magazine." Thanks are due 
to Houghton, Mifflin & Co. for permission to reprint 
'' The Children of the Road " and '' Old Boston Mary," 
published in the " Atlantic Monthly " ; to Harper & 
Brothers for similar permission in regard to the papers 
entitled " Jamie the Kid " and " Club Life among 
Outcasts," published in ^' Harper's Monthly Magazine," 
and " What the Tramp Eats and Wears " and " One 
Night on the ^Q,'" which appeared in '' Harper's 
Weekly." To the Forum Publishing Company I am 
indebted for permission to reprint from the " Forum " 
the paper called " The Criminal in the Open." 

JosiAH Flynt. 

















xii Contents 













8, 1897 Frontispiece 





















xiv List of Illustrations 


A MOOCHER .... 245 






FARES 305 









I. The Criminal in the Open ..... 1 

II. The Children of the Road . ... 28 

III. Club Life among Outcasts 67 

IV. The American Tramp Considered Geograph- 

ically 91 

V. The City Tramp 113 

VI. What the Tramp Eats and Wears . . . 137 

Tramping with Tramps 



UP to the present time the criminal has been 
studied exclusively behind prison-bars, after he 
has been caught, tried, and convicted. Out of durance 
he is his own master, and is naturally averse to being 
measured and experimented upon by scientists ; hence 
the criminologist has been forced to await the almost 
certain vicissitudes which bring him once more inside 
a prison-cell. Here he has been subjected to the most 
minute examinations ; and there exists a bulky litera- 
ture on the results which these examinations have 
brought to light. We have volumes, for instance, 
about the criminal's body, skull, and face, his whim- 
sical and obscene writings on prison-walls, the effect 
of various kinds of diet on his deportment, the work- 
ings of delicate instruments, placed on his wrists, to 
test the beat of his pulse under various conditions, 
1 1 

2 Tramping with Tramps 

the stories lie has been persuaded to tell about his life, 
his mauuderings when under the influence of hypno- 
tism, and numerous things, anthropological and psy- 
chological, which have been noted down, compared, 
and classified. 

Out of this mass of information, gathered in great 
part by prison doctors and other prison officials, the 
conclusion has been drawn that the criminal is a more 
or less degenerate human being. There are differ- 
ences of opinion in regard to the degree of his degen- 
eracy ; but all investigators agree upon the main fact, 
while some go so far as to claim that he is abnormally 
deficient in mental and moral aptitudes, and, in a large 
number of instances, should be in an insane asylum 
rather than in a penitentiary. Human justice recoils 
from a severe treatment of the man who, though an 
outbreaking sinner, bears evidence of being sinned 
against as well as sinning ; and yet, before we can safely 
fall in with this view, we must carefully consider the 
theory on which it is based, and its claims to a scien- 
tific foundation. 

The first question with which to begin a scientific in- 
vestigation of this sort is, it seems to me, this : " Where 
may we hope to find the criminal in his most natural 
state of body and mind — in confinement, a balked 
and disappointed man, or in the open, faring forth on 
his plundering errands, seeking wbom and what he 
may devour ? " That he should be studied when under- 
going punishment goes without saying; but I claim 
that imprisonment should be considered rather as an 
incident in his existence than its normal sphere, and 
that, because it has not been so regarded, we have to- 

The Criminal in the Open 3 

day a distorted view of the criminal and an illogical 
tendency in penology. 

It is now more than a decade since I became ac- 
quainted with tramps. My purpose in seeking them 
out was to learn about their life ; and I soon saw that, 
to know it well, I must become joined to it and be part 
and parcel of its various manifestations. At different 
times during this period,— some of them lengthening 
out into months,— I have lived intimately with the 
vagabonds of both England and the United States. 
In the tramp class, or so near it that the separation is 
almost imperceptible, are to be found any number of 
criminals associating freely, either for purposes of 
business or sociability, with their less ambitious 
brethren. In nearly every large city of the two 
countries mentioned I know something about them, 
and in not a few instances I have succeeded in be- 
coming well acquainted with notorious members of 
their class. My desire is to tell of the impression 
they make on one who studies them in their own hab- 
itat, that I may be able to show how different is 
the outdoor criminal from his convicted brother 
shut in behind prison-bars. 

I MUST first note the species of criminal that I have 
met in the open. Lombroso and other investigators 
classify the cases they have studied as political, in- 
stinctive, occasional, habitual, and professional; but, 
so far as my finding is concerned, only one class is of 
any great importance— the professional. That there 

4 Tramping with Tramps 

are also instinctive criminals, as well as occasional, 
I am well aware ; but they form a very small part 
of that outcast world that I know best, and cannot 
be taken as definitely representative of it. It is the 
man who wilfully and knowingly makes a business of 
crime or is experimenting with it from commercial 
motives that I have found in largest numbers ^' on the 
road " ; and it is he, I believe, who appears of tenest in 
our criminal courts. To be sure, he tries to make out 
that he is not a wilful offender, and often succeeds in 
convincing a jury that he is not ; but this is due to his 
cleverness and trained abilities. 

Contrary to a more or less popular opinion, I must 
also say that the criminals I am acquainted with are 
not such because they are unable to keep body and 
soul together in any other way. The people who go 
into crime for this reason are far less numerous than 
is generally supposed. It is true that they come, as a 
rule, from the poverty-stricken districts of our large 
cities, and that the standard of life in these districts, 
particularly for families, is pitifully low ; but a single 
person can live in them far more easily than the philan- 
thropists think. The necessaries of life, for instance, 
can be had by simply begging; and this is the way 
they are found by the majority of people who are not 
willing to work for them. The criminal, however, 
wants the luxuries of life as well ; he seeks gold and 
the most expensive pleasures that gold can buy ; and 
to get them he preys upon those who have it. He 
thinks that if all goes well he may become an aristo- 
crat ; and having so little to lose and so much to gain, 
he deliberately takes his chances. 

The Criminal in the Open 5 

I must say furthermore that those criminals who are 
known to me are not, as is also popularly supposed, 
the scum of their environment. On the contrary, they 
are above their environment, and are often gifted with 
talents which would enable them to do well in any 
class, could they only be brought to realize its respon- 
sibilities and to take advantage of its opportunities. 
The notion that the criminal is the lowest type of his 
class in society arises from a false conception of that 
class and of the people who compose it. According to 
my experience, they are mainly paupers; and they 
have been such so long, and are so obtuse and unac- 
customed to anything better, even in the United States, 
tha,t they seldom make any serious effort to get out of 
their low condition. Indeed, I think it can be said 
that the majority of them are practically as happy and 
contented in their squalor and poverty as is the aris- 
tocrat in his palace. In Whitechapel as well as in the 
worst parts of New York, for example, I have met en- 
tire families who could not be persuaded to exchange 
places with the rich, provided the exchange carried 
with it the duties and manners which wealth presup- 
poses ; they even pity the rich, and express wonder at 
their contentment " in such a strait-jacket life." 

In this same class, however, there are some who are 
born with ambitions, tind who have energy enough to 
try to fulfil them. These break away from class con- 
ditions ; but, unfortunately, the ladder of respectable 
business has no foothold in their environment. No 
one of their acquaintance has gone springing up its 
rounds in tempting promotions ; and although the city 
missionary tells them that there are those who thus 

6 Tramping with Tramps 

succeed, tliey will not believe him— or, rather, they pre- 
fer to believe the, to them, far more probable stories 
of success which they read in the ^' Police Gazette " and 
the '^ Criminal Calendar." Most of them know per- 
fectly well that the success thus portrayed is the re- 
sult of law-breaking, and that they will be punished 
if caught trying to achieve it ; but it is a choice be- 
tween the miserable slum, which they hate, and pos- 
sible wealth, which they covet, and they determine to 
run the risk. 

Not all of these ambitious ones are endowed with an 
equal amount of energy. Some are capable only of 
tramp life, which, despite its many trials and vicissi- 
tudes, is more attractive than the life they seek to 
escape. Those with greater energy go into crime 
proper; and they may be called, mentally as well as 
physically, the aristocracy of their class. This is my 
analysis of the majority of the criminal men and 
women I have encountered in the open, and I believe 
it will hold good throughout their entire class. 

Concerning their nationalities, I must say that most 
of them are indigenous to the countries in which they 
live. In this country it is often said that foreigners 
are the main offenders, and a great deal has been 
written about the dumping of European criminals 
on American shores ; but the main offenders, in the 
open at least, are natives, and are generally of Irish- 
American parentage. In England, unmixed blood is 
a little more noticeable. Ireland is said to be the least 
criminal land in all Europe, and this may be the case 
so far as local crime is concerned ; but more criminals 
trace their ancestry back to that country than to any 

The Criminal in the Open 7 

other where English is spoken. Indeed, in America 
it is considered something quite out of the ordinary if 
the criminal cannot attach himself somehow or other 
to the '^ Emerald Isle " ; and nothing has hindered me 
more in my intercourse with him than the fact that 
my own connection with it is very slight. 

In regard to the ages of the criminals I have met, 
it is difficult to write definitely 5 but the average, I 
think, is between twenty-five and thirty years. The 
sex is predominantly masculine. For every female 
criminal I have found twenty males ; and the propor- 
tion in the United States is even higher. It cannot, 
however, be inferred tha,t the women of the same 
original environment are less ambitious than the men ; 
but they take to the street, instead of to crime, to sat- 
isfy their love of high living, and they hope to find 
there the same prizes that their brothers are seeking 
by plunder. It is a mistake to say that all these 
women are driven to the street by the pangs of hun- 
ger. A great many are no doubt thus impelled ; but 
I believe there are multitudes who are there merely to 
satisfy their ambitious and luxurious tastes. 

As the degeneration of the criminal is said by the 
criminologists to be physical, mental, and moral, I 
shall take up the subject, as it pertains to the criminals 
I have studied, from these different points of view. 

It has of course been impossible for me, a fellow- 
traveler with tramps and but a casual observer of 
criminals, to conduct my investigations as scientific 

8 Tramping with Tramps 

observers of prison specimens have done. I have not 
been permitted, for instance, to measure their skulls ; 
neither have I been able to weigh them, to inspect 
their teeth and palates, nor even to test their pulse 
under excitement. It has been possible for me, how- 
ever, to study their countenances, to get acquainted 
with their type, as it is called, and to compare it, as I 
have seen it in the open day, with its pictorial repre- 
sentation in books and pamphlets. As a rule, these 
pictures are very different from the type that I know. 
Only in a few cases have they ever approximated to 
the truth; and why artists have given us such as 
their models is more than 1 can understand. In New 
York I once showed a criminal one of these carica- 
tures and asked what he thought of it. He replied, 
'^ Why, I would n't be found dead lookin' like that ! " 
—a sentiment which I consider both justified and rep- 
resentative. The trouble is that writers about crime 
have usually picked out as illustrations for their books 
the very worst specimens possible ; and the public has 
been led to consider these as true representatives of the 
entire class. A retreating forehead, for example, and 
the most depraved expressions of the eyes and mouth 
are to-day considered typical stigmata of the criminal's 
face. The majority of those that I am acquainted 
with, particularly those under thirty years of age, if 
well dressed, could pass muster in almost any class of 
society; and I doubt very much whether an uniniti- 
ated observer would be able to pick them out for what 
they are. After thirty years of age, and sometimes 
even younger, they do acquire a peculiar look ; but, 
instead of calling it a criminal look, in the sense that 

The Criminal in the Open g 

the instinctive offender is criminal, I should describe 
it as that of a long resident in a penitentiary. Prison 
life, if taken in large doses and often enough, will give 
the most moral men in the world prison features ; and 
it is no wonder that men who make a business of 
crime and are so much in prison possess them. Even 
men who are busied in the detection of crime have 
more or less similar facial characteristics. I have 
never met a detective who had been long in the ser- 
vice that did not have some features or habits common 
to the criminals he was engaged in hunting down ; 
and I know several detectives who have been taken 
for criminals by criminals, simply because of their 

In regard to other abnormalities, such as absence 
of hair on the face, remarkable eyesight, length of 
certain fingers, insensibility to pain, unusual develop- 
ment of the lower jaw, high cheek-bones, fixed eyes, 
projecting ears, and stooping shoulders, which are said 
to differentiate the criminal from the ordinary human 
being, I can only report that I have not found them 
to be any more noticeable in the criminal class than 
among normal people. In the majority of cases the 
criminal can grow a beard, and is glad that he can do 
so. Without this ability to change his looks he would 
be greatly handicapped in his business ; and, as I know 
him, he usually has a beard once in two years. It has 
been said that his habit of tattooing is evidence of his 
obtuseness to pain ; but it is not easy to see why. At 
the worst, it is not a trying ordeal ; and the little 
suffering that it does occasion is as much felt by the 
criminal as by any one else. Moreover, those that I 

10 Tramping with Tramps 

know are not so prone to be tattooed as is reported. 
Indeed, it is considered a mistake to have marks on 
the body, for they naturally aid detection. 

On all these questions of the senses, criminologists 
have relied altogether on what the criminal himself has 
told them. They give him something to taste or 
smell, or prick him with a needle, and his reply is 
noted down as scientific evidence. How do they know 
that he has not some object in view in telling them 
what he does ? He may want to appear degenerated 
or queer, or is perhaps simply mischievous and says 
the first thing that comes into his head. Until instru- 
ments have been invented which can discover the 
truth quite independently of the criminal's personal 
testimony, nothing really positive can be known con- 
cerning whatever freaks of the senses may have been 
wrought in the criminal's organization. 

The general health of the criminal is good. Up to 
twenty-five years of age he is as hardy and vigorous 
as the average person. Although he comes from the 
slums, he gets somehow a very fair constitution ; and 
if he would only take care of it, he might live to a 
good old age. When he nears his thirtieth year, how- 
ever, his strength and vigor begin to fail him. By 
that time he has served a number of terms in prison, 
and it is this existence that drags him down. In the 
open he seems able to endure a great deal and still 
keep his health ; but behind the bars, care for him as 
the penologists will, he weakens and withers away. 
This side of his life has scarcely received the attention 
it deserves from investigators who find the criminal 
diseased. That he becomes diseased must be readily 

The Criminal in the Open 11 

admitted ; but, as a rule, it is only after society has 
shut him up in its penal institutions. Stand, for in- 
stance, at the doors of one of these institutions when 
a ten-year convict is released, and see how he looks, 
I once did this; and a worse wreck of a formerly 
strong man I have never encountered — a being ruined 
in both body and mind, a victim of passions which in 
the open he would have abhorred. 

There is no better proof that it is the prison, and 
not his life and business, that makes the criminal dis- 
eased than that furnished by tramps. These men live 
almost entirely in the open, and, as a general rule, have 
a harder life than a criminal; yet they are about the 
healthiest people in the world. In the United States it 
is one of their superstitions that they simply cannot 
die, like other men, of disease, but have to be killed. 
This is what happens to a great many of them. They 
fall from freight-trains at night, or are found starved 
to death, locked fast in a box-car on some distant side- 


Finding the criminal diseased and abnormal physi- 
cally, it is only natural that investigators should have 
found him equally abnormal in mind ; but this, too, I 
have not discovered. 

Lack of will-power, for example, is one of the first 
delinquencies noted in criminology; and yet out of 
prison and in the open, the will is one of the criminal's 
strongest points. Most of them have enough of it, at 
least while they are young, to satisfy any one ; and 
could they but be brought to use it in honest indus- 

1 2 Tramping with Tramps 

try, they might become the most successful people in 
the world. The trouble is that they will do the things 
which society considers and punishes as crime. They 
think that they can '' get on " faster in their profession 
than in any other; and they bend every energy to 
achieve their ambition. Because this ambition is so 
flatly contradictory to what is upright and honest, it 
is common, not only among criminologists, but with 
the general public as well, to speak of the criminal as 
one weak of will. I think this is one of the greatest 
mistakes in psychology. Napoleon I, for instance, 
was instrumental, directly or indirectly, in the deaths 
of nearly two million people, and was one of the most 
unscrupulously ambitious human beings that have 
ever lived ; yet his passes for one of the strongest wills 
the world has known. The unimperial criminal, on 
the other hand, if he be unsuccessful, is catalogued by 
prison psychologists as a pathological specimen sim- 
ply because he wills to do wrong. 

This strange classification is doubtless to be ac- 
counted for on the ground that the criminal in prison 
has been taken to be the natural criminal. Behind the 
bars he does indeed become somewhat volatile, and 
finds it hard to concentrate his mind ; but this is due 
to imprisonment and its harassing trials rather than 
to innate deficiency. The strongest of wills would 
deteriorate under such conditions, and perhaps even 
more rapidly than that of the criminal who, from the 
very nature of his trade, expects and plans for a cer- 
tain amount of exile. 

The charge of impatience, which is so often brought 
against him, may be explained in the same way j and 

The Criminal in the Open 13 

the tramps are again good illustrations. As a class 
they are the most patient people imaginable, and are 
able to endure pleasantly any amount of ruffling 
circumstances. Where, for example, is there a calmer 
and more stoical human being than the American 
''hobo," waiting tlirough rain or shine at the railway 
watering-tank for the freight-train that shall carry him 
farther on the road ? He will stay there for days, if 
necessary, rather than pay the regular fare on the pas- 
senger-trains ; and nothing arouses his scorn more > 
than the dilettante, or '' gay-cat," as he calls him, who / 
gives up waiting and buys a regulation ticket. The 
criminal, after a certain age, often lacks this ability to 
hang on ; but his nerves and general equipoise have 
been disturbed by imprisonment. Even the tramp is 
a less patient person in county jails than he is in the 
open ; but his stay there is so short, and the confine- 
ment, compared with that in convict prisons, is so 
much easier to bear, that he soon recuperates. I can 
write from personal experience on this point ; for, as 
an American tramp, I have had to take my share of 
jail life, and I have never been so nervous and im- / 
patient as when undergoing it. In the open, on the 
other hand, I have never been so healthy and under 
control. If a few days' confinement can have such an 
effect upon an absolutely voluntary prisoner, what 
must be the effect of years of this sort of life upon the 
man who hates prison as he does poison, and is not 
sure that when he is released an officer may not be 
waiting to read him a warrant for another arrest? 
Criminologists who believe in the innate nervous 
weakness of the criminal would do well to test their 

1^ Tramping with Tramps 

own nerves during even voluntary residence in prison- 
cells in order to estimate their power to disturb a 
natural equilibrium. 

It is also said that the criminal is more or less an 
epileptic. Lombroso makes a great deal of this sup- 
position; and there are other students of the subject 
who go quite as far as he does. I have never met a 
pure epileptic criminal on the road, and I cannot re- 
vcall having heard the subject discussed by tramps 
or criminals in any way that would lead me to be- 
lieve the disorder at all common among them. Among 
tramps a favorite trick is to feign epilepsy; and I 
have seen it done with a fidelity to the '* real thing " 
that was remarkable. Whether or not criminals also 
feign in prison, I am not prepared to say ; but if 
they are as clever as tramps at it, I can well believe 
that they might deceive even the very elect among 

I have also failed to find insanity common among 
criminals. Among those under twenty-five years of 
age, I have never known one clear case ; and the few 
cases that I have known after that period have been 
men who have had long sentences in prison, and whose 
confinement, I have no doubt, has had much to do with 
their mental derangement. 

There is no better evidence of the criminal's ability 
to reason than the fact that, the minute he is convinced 
that crime does not pay, he gives it up. Even at the 
start he is not sure that it will pay ; but, as I have 
said, having so little to lose and so much to gain, he 
takes his chances. After a time, long or short accord- 
ing to his success, he generally comes to the conclu- 

The Criminal in the Open 17 

sion that it does not pay, or at least that he lacks the 
wit to make it successful ; and he drops it, becoming 
what I call a discouraged criminal. There is a differ- 
ence of opinion among criminals as to how much im- 
prisonment is necessaiy to convince a man that he is 
not getting his fair share of the prizes of his profes- 
sion ; but, so far as I have been able to make inquiries, 
I should say that between ten and fifteen years are 
enough to frighten the average man out of the busi- 
ness. Some stick to it with even twenty years spent 
behind the bars ; but they are generally those who have 
been uncommonly successful in making large catches, 
and have risked *' just one more job '' in order to win 
the '' great stake " that is to make them rich. 

The main reason why the criminal is afraid to go 
beyond the fifteen-year limit is that, after that time, 
unless he be an uncommonly clever man, he is likely 
to get what is called ^^ the shivers "—one of the weird- 
est disorders to which the human body ever yields. 
Men describe it differently ; but, by all accounts, the 
victim is possessed by such a terror of capture that 
each member of his body is in a constant tremor. 
Instances have been known where, owing to a sud- 
den attack of this shivering palsy, he has had to quit 
a ''job" that was almost finished. If these fits once 
become customary the man is unqualified for any kind 
of work ever after, and usually ends his life in the 
lowest class of the outcasts' world — the "tomato-can 
tramp class." 

It is interesting to note where criminals draw the 
dividing-line between success and failure. Generally 
speaking, they consider a man fairly successful if be- 

i8 Tramping with Tramps 

tween imprisonments he gets a " vacation," as they call 
it, of eight or ten mouths, and is lucky enough during 
this period to make sufficient ^' hauls" to compensate 
him for the almost inevitable punishment that follows. 
The understanding, of course, in all this is that he gets 
the benefit, either in carousals or more practical in- 
vestments, of the money he has been lucky enough to 
win. As a rule, however, the plunder usually goes in 
debauches, and very quickly, too ; but the criminal al- 
ways hopes to recoup himself by a great stake which is 
to be put away in safety. If he be a man of average 
criminal wit and experience, particularly the latter, he 
can frequently secure the vacation of eight months for 
a number of years. But the more confinement he suf- 
fers the more reckless he becomes, and the less able to 
think carefully ; and there are a gi'eat many men who 
soon find that even six months is the most that they 
can count on. This time, however, is not enough, 
as a rule, for the hauls necessary to offset the ex- 
pected term in prison 5 and the criminal is usually 
clever enough to get out of the business. He then 
bids good-by to his more tenacious brethren and joins 
the tramp class, where he is made welcome by others 
who have joined it before him. He becomes a tramp 
because it is the career that comes nearest to the one 
he hoped to do well in. Besides affording consider- 
able amusement, it also permits the discouraged man 
to keep track of the comrades whom he used to know 
in the higher walks of outlawry 5 and this is an at- 
traction not to be overlooked. 

It is usual to classify the criminal according to the 
crimes he commits. One classification, for example, 

The Criminal in the Open 19 

makes murderers the least intelligent; vagabonds, 
sexual offenders, and highwaymen a little more soj 
while the fraudulent class, pickpockets and burglars, 
are accounted the most gifted of all. I think this a 
fair division and one that will generally hold good ; 
but I have found that criminals who commit crimes 
against property, or the fraudulent class, are far and 
away in the majority. Their native intelligence will 
compare favorably with that of the average run of 
people ; and I have been unable to discover any men- 
tal defects until they have been a long time in prison. 
Nearly all of them can read and write very well in- 
deed ; and there are many who have read far more 
than the ordinary business man. I have met men, 
very low-born men too, who, while in prison, have 
read through more volumes of philosophy and history 
than even the usual college student can boast in his 
reading ; and they have been able to converse very 
wisely on these subjects. These same men have ac- 
quired the rudiments of their studies in reformatory 
and industrial institutions, and have succeeded in con- 
tinuing them in the libraries of penitentiaries. I know 
one criminal who in his prison-cell informed himself 
about a branch of chemistry simply for purposes of 
business : he was thought at the time to be more or 
less crazy. 

Prison officials are often deceived by criminals in 
regard to their acquirements in learning. In many 
prisons, diligence and progress in study earn as much 
promotion as general good conduct does ; and as the 
average prisoner has every reason to desire the bene- 
fits which promotions bring with them, he tries after 

20 Tramping with Tramps 

a fashion to progress. But what is this fashion? 
Very frequently this: On his arrival at the prison, 
instead of telling the truth to the officials who quiz 
him about his abilities, he says that he does not even 
know the alphabet, and is consequently given very 
light mental work. He is thus able to advance rapidly, 
and his teachers pride themselves on his quickness to 
learn and their ability to teach. Ere long he gets into 
a better class, and so on until he has enjoyed all the 
benefits which precocity can earn. There are other 
men who profess ignorance in order to appear simple 
and unknowing, and thus create the impression that 
they are not so guilty as they are taken to be. Many 
times and in many cases the criminal is a little clev- 
erer than the people who are examining him ; and one 
cannot set a high value on statistics concerning his 
intelligence. If the student of criminology could and 
/ would eavesdrop for a while at some ^'hang-out" in 
the open, and hear the criminal's own account of the 
way he is investigated, he might learn '^foxier "meth- 
ods of dealing with his subject. 

One other fact belongs properly to this division : 
The professional criminal is not, in his own class, the 
revolutionary creature that he seems when preying 
upon the classes above him. His attitude toward so- 
ciety in general is without doubt disrespectful and 
anarchistic, and it is usually immaterial to him what 
happens to society as such, so long as he can make 
a " stake " ; but in his own environment he is one of 
the most conservative of human beings. There is no 
class, for instance, where old age and mature opinion 
receive more respect and carry more weight ; and, as a 

The Criminal in the Open 21 

general thing, the young men in it— the radical ele- 
ment—are expected to take a back seat. At a hang- 
out gathering they must always show deference to 
the older men, and nothing is so severely judged 
as " freshness " on their part. 

I think this is a characteristic of the criminal that 
might be turned to good account if he should ever be 
won over to respectable living : in affairs of the State, 
provided he had a fair share of this world's goods, he 
would be found invariably on the conservative rather 
than on the radical side. 


I COME now to the question of the criminal's moral 
responsibility. Can he be held definitely answerable 
for his evil-doing, or is he morally insane and unable 
to distinguish between right and wrong? The in- 
stinctive criminal must be irresponsible, and his 
treatment should be such as we give to insane people. 
As I know him, he cannot help his criminal actions ; 
it is in him to do them ; and the only merciful thing 
is to put him where he at least cannot continue his 
depredations on society, and where, if cure be possi- 
ble, he may be in the hands of specialists best fitted to 
help him. But, as I said at the outset, he is not the 
sort of criminal that I have found in largest numbers 
in the open. It is the commercial criminal that pre- 
dominates there j and, as a rule, he can be held re- 
sponsible for his evil-doing. 

It is often said that his lack of remorse for his 
crimes proves him to be morally incompetent; but 

22 Tramping with Tramps 

this opinion is founded on insufficient knowledge of 
his life. He has two systems of morality : one for his 
business, and the other for the hang-out. The first 
is this : '' Society admits that the quarrel with me is 
over after I have served out my sentence j and I, nat- 
urally enough, take the same view of the matter. It 
is simply one of take and pay. I take something from 
society and give in exchange so many years of my life. 
If I come out ahead, so much the better for me ; if 
society comes out ahead, so much the worse for me, 
and there is no use in whimpering over the transac- 
tion." So long as he remains in the business he thinks 
it only fair to " stick up for it" ; and he dislikes and 
will not associate with men who denounce it in public. 
This is his attitude toward the world at large. He 
puts on a bold front, and, as he himself says, ^^ nerves " 
the thing through. In the bosom of his hang-out, 
however,— and this is where we ought to study his 
ethics,— he is a very different man. His code of 
morals there will compare favorably with that of 
any class of society ; and there is no class in which 
fair dealing is more seriously preached, and unfair 
dealing more severely condemned. The average crim- 
inal will stand by a fellow-craftsman through thick 
and thin ; and the only human being he will not tol- 
erate is the one who turns traitor. The remorse of 
this traitor when brought to bay by his former breth- 
ren I have never seen exceeded anywhere. It was my 
fate some years ago, while living with tramps, to be 
lodged in a jail where one of the prisoners was a 
''State's evidence" witness. He had been released 
from prison by promising to tell tales on an old man,— 

The Criminal in the Open 23 

who was supposed to be the main culprit in the crime 
in question,— and was lodging in the jail until the 
trial was over. Unfortunately for him, some of the 
prisoners had known him prior to this episode in his 
career ; and they sent him to Coventry so completely 
that his life in the jail became unbearable, and he al- 
most died ere he could give his testimony. At night 
we could hear him groaning in his sleep as if he were 
undergoing the most fearful torture, and in the day- 
time he slunk around the corridors like a whipped 
dog. He lived to give his evidence in the trial, 
and was released from durance ; but a few days later 
he was found dead by his own hand. When the in- 
mates of the jail heard of his fate they relented a lit- 
tle in their hatred of him ; but the final opinion was 
that suicide was the best solution of the problem. 

It is thought by criminologists that the good fel- 
lowship of the criminal is due to self-preservation and 
the fear that each man will hang separately if all do 
not hang together. They maintain that his good 
feeling is not genuine and spontaneous emotion, and 
that it is immaterial what happens to a ''pal" so long 
as he himself succeeds. This is not my experience in 
his company. He has never had the slightest intima- 
tion that I would return favors that he did me; and 
in the majority of instances he has had every reason 
to know that it was not in my power to show him the 
friendliness he wanted. Yet he has treated me with 
an altruism that even a Tolstoi might admire. At the 
hang-out I have been hospitably entertained on all 
occasions ; and I have never met a criminal there who 
would not have given me money or seen me through 

24 Tramping with Tramps 

a squabble, had I needed his assistance and he was 
able to give it. This same comradeship is noticeable 
in all his relations with men who are in the least con- 
nected with his life and business ; and it is a notori- 
ous fact that he will " divvy " his last meal with a pal. 
To have to refuse the request of one of his fellows, or 
to do him an unkindness, is as much regretted by the 
criminal as by any one else ; and I have never known 
him to tell me a lie or to cheat me or to make fun of 
me behind my back. 

There are also some things in his relations with the 
outside world which, in his heart of hearts, he regrets 
and repents of as much as he does the misdeeds in his 
own world. He always feels bad, for instance, when 
he takes money from the poor. It sometimes happens 
in his raids that he makes mistakes and gets into the 
wrong house, or has been deceived about the wealth of 
his victims ; and if he discovers that he has robbed a 
poor man, or one who cannot conveniently bear the 
loss, he is ashamed and never enjoys the plunder thus 
won. He is too near the poor, in both birth and sen- 
timent, not to feel remorse for such an action ; and I 
have known him to send back money after he has dis- 
covered that the person from whom he took it needed 
it more than he. 

The taking of life is another deed that he regrets 
far more than he has been given credit for. One 
thinks of the criminal as the man who has no respect 
for life, as one who takes it without any twitchings of 
conscience ; but this is not the general rule. The 
business criminal never takes a life, if he can help it ; 
and when he does, he expects, in court, to receive the 

The Criminal In the Open 25 

death -penalty. Indeed, he beheves, as a rule, that 
murder deserves capital punishment ; and I have often 
heard him express wonder at the lightness of the pen- 
alties which murderers receive. 

At the hang-out a favorite topic of discussion is, 
which penalty is preferable— life-imprisonment or 
death. The consensus of opinion has generally run in 
favor of life-imprisonment, even with no hope of par- 
don ; but I have never heard a whimper against the 
justice of the death-sentence. 

It is also true that the majority of criminals regret 
finding a man in their class who has once belonged to 
a better one. They are invariably sorry that he has 
lost caste, no matter what the circumstances have been 
that have brought him low, and are more likely to 
help him back to decent society, providing he shows 
repentance and willingness to do better, than they are 
to help themselves. 

Philanthropists might learn a great deal of charity 
from the criminal. His idea is that it is better to 
keep a member of a respectable class of society from 
falling than it is to raise some one in a lower class 
to a higher one — a philosophy which I think very 

One more regret which nearly all criminals of the 
class I am considering have experienced at one time or 
another in their lives, is that circumstances have led 
them into a criminal career. Their remorse may be 
only for a moment, and an exaggerated indifference 
often follows it ; but while it lasts it is genuine and 
sincere. I have never known a criminal well who 
has not confessed to me something of this sort ; and 


26 Tramping with Tramps 

lie has often capped it with a further confidence— his 
sorrow that it was now too late to try anything else. 

Such, in hurried and transitory outline, is the im- 
pression the criminal has made upon me in the open 
day. The mistakes which criminologists have made 
in regard to his case seem to me to be these : They 
have failed to take note of the fearful effects of con- 
finement upon his health ; they have allowed them- 
selves to be deceived by him in regard to his intelli- 
gence; and they have judged of his moral status 
simply from his '' faked " attitude toward the world at 
large, failing to take into account his ethics among 
his fellows. I believe, too, that they are on the wrong 
track in their studies of the criminal's skull. They 
have examined it in all manner of ways with an ever- 
varying result ; for each investigator comes to a dif- 
ferent conclusion. Far better for criminology to 
study the criminal's milieu; and until this is done 
thoroughly and conscientiously, he cannot be reason- 
ably apprehended and scientifically treated. 

So far as our present knowledge of his case can help 
us, he himself teaches what ought to be done with 
him. I have written of the discouraged criminal— 
the man who has given up crime because he has dis- 
covered that it was not worth the pains it cost him. 
Punishment, or expiatory discipline, if you please, 
has brought him to this conclusion. Here is good 
penology for us. If a man does wrong, wilfully and 
knowingly, he must be disciplined till he learns that 

The Criminal in the Open 27 

society will not tolerate such conduct. The discour- 
aged criminal is one who has been thus instructed. 
Now that he is a tramp, the same principle must 
be applied to him again : make him a discouraged 
vagabond. Such is the treatment which society must 
bring to bear on the deliberate law-breaker. 

If I have studied the criminal to any purpose, it is 
with the resulting conviction that he is physically, 
mentally, and morally responsible ; and that, though 
unhappy in his birth and environment, the very energy 
which has enabled him to get away from his poverty 
is the '^promise and potency" of a better life. And 
human hope looks forward to a day when, in the re- 
generation of his class, he shall be born into better 
things than crime. 



THE real ^' road " is variously named and variously 
described. By the " ambulanter " it is called 
Gipsyland, by the tramp Hoboland ; the fallen woman 
thinks it is the street, the thief, that it means stealing 
and the penitentiary; even the little boy who reads 
dime novels and fights hitching-posts for desperados 
believes momentarily that he too is on the real road. 
All these are indeed branches of the main line. The 
road proper, or '^ the turf," as the people who toil along 
its stretches sometimes prefer to call it, is low life in 
general. It winds its way through dark alleys and 
courts to dives and slums, and wherever criminals, 
hoboes, outcast women, stray and truant children 
congregate ; but it never leads to the smiling windows 
and doorways of a happy home, except for plunder 
and crime. There is not a town in the land that it 
does not touch, and there are but few hamlets that 
have not sent out at least one adventurer to explore 
its twists and turnings. 

The travelers, as I have said, are of all kinds, con- 


The Children of the Road 29 

ditions, and ages : some old and crippled, some still in 
their prime, and others just beginning life. To watch 
in thought the long and motley procession marching 
along is to see a panorama of all the sins, sorrows, and 
accidents known to human experience. Year after 
year they trudge on and on, and always on, seeking a 
goal which they never seem to find. Occasionally they 
halt for a while at some half-way house, where they 
have heard that there is a resting-place of their desire; 
but it invariably proves disappointing, and the tramp, 
tramp, tramp begins afresh. Young and old, man 
and woman, boy and girl, all go on together ; and as 
one dies or wearies of the march, another steps into 
his heel-tracks, and the ranks close up as solidly as 

The children of the road have always been to me its 
most pitiful investiture, and I have more than once 
had dreams and plans that looked to the rescue of 
these prematurely outcast beings. It needs skilled 
philanthropists and penologists, however, for such a 
work, and I must content myself with contributing 
experiences and facts which may perhaps aid in the 
formation of theory, and thus throw light upon the 
practical social tasks that are before us. 

There are four distinct ways by which boys and 
girls get upon the road : some are born there, some ^ 
are driven there, others are enticed there, and still \ 
others go there voluntarily. 

Of those who are born on the road, perhaps the 
least known are the children of the ambulanters. The 
name is a tramp invention, and not popular among 
the ambulanters themselves. They prefer to be called 

go Tramping with Tramps 

gipsies, and try at times, especially when compelled 
by law to give some account of themselves, to trace 
their origin to Egypt ; but the most of them, I fear, 
are degenerated Americans. How they have become 
so is a question which permits of much conjecture, and 
in giving my own explanation I do not want it to be 
taken as applicable to the entire class. I know only 
about fifty families, and not more than half of these 
at all familiarly ; but those whom I do know seem to 
me to be the victims of a pure and simple laziness 
handed down from generation to generation until it 
has become a chronic family disease. From what they 
have told me confidentially about their natural his- 
tory, I picture their forefathers as harmless village 
"do-nothings," who lounged in corner groceries, hung 
about taverns, and followed the fire-engine and the 
circus. The second generation was probably too 
numerous for the home parish, and, inheriting the 
talent for loafing, started out to find roomier lounges. 
It must have wandered far and long, for upon the 
third generation, the one that I know, the love of 
roaming descended to such a degree that all North 
America is none too large for it. Go where one will, 
in the most dismal woods, the darkest lanes, or on the 
widest prairies, there the ambulanter may be found 
tenting with his large and unkempt family. He comes 
and goes as his restless spirit dictates, and the horse 
and wagon carry him from State to State. 

It is in Illinois that I know his family best. Cava- 
lier John, as he proudly called himself, I remember 
particularly. He gave me shelter one night in his 
wagon, as I was toiling along the highway south of 

The Children of the Road 31 

Ottawa, and we became such good friends that I 
traveled with his caravan for three days. And what a 
caravan it was ! A negro wife, five little mulattoes, 
a deformed white girl, three starved dogs, a sore-eyed 
cat, a blasphemous parrot, a squeaking squirrel, a 
bony horse, and a canvas-topped wagon, and all were 
headed " Texas way." John came from Maine origi- 
nally, but he had picked up his wife in the West, and 
it was through their united efforts in trickery and 
clever trading that they had acquired their outfit. 
So far as I could learn, neither of them had ever done 
an honest stroke of business. The children ranged 
from three years to fourteen, and the deformed girl 
was nearly twenty. John found her among some other 
ambulanters in Ohio, and, thinking that he might 
make money out of her physical monstrosities as 
''side-shows," cruelly traded off an old fox for her. 
She ought to have been in an insane asylum, and I 
hope John has put her there long ago. The other 
" kidlets," as they were nicknamed, were as deformed 
morally as was the adopted girl physically. They had 
to beg in every town and village they came to, and 
at night their father took the two oldest with him in 
his raids on the hen-roosts. It was at town and county 
fairs, however, that they were the most profitable. 
Three knew how to pick pockets, and the two yoimg- 
est gave acrobatic exhibitions. None of them had 
ever been in school, none could read or write, and the 
only language they spoke was the one of their class. 
I have never been able to learn it well, but it is a 
mixture of Rom and tramp dialects with a dash of 
English slang. 


32 Tramping with Tramps 

On the journey we met another caravan, bound West 
by way of Chicago. There were two families, and the 
children numbered sixteen ; the oldest ranging from 
fifteen to twenty, and the youngest had just appeared. 
We camped together in a wood for a night and a day, 
and seldom have I sojourned in such company. John 
had given me a place with him in the wagon, but now 
the woman with the babe was given the wagon, and 
John and I slept, or tried to, ^4n the open." In the 
other wagon, both sexes, young and old, were crowded 
into a space not much larger than the ordinary omni- 
bus, and the vermin would have made sleep impossible 
to any other order of beings. The next day, being 
Sunday, was given over to play and revel, and the 
poor horses had a respite from their sorrows. The 
children invented a queer sort of game, something 
like " shinny," and used a dried-up cat's head as block. 
They kicked, pounded, scratched, and cursed one an- 
other ; but when the play was over all was well again, 
and the block was tucked away in the wagon for 
further use. Late at night the journeys were taken 
up once more, one caravan moving on toward Dakota, 
and the other toward the Gulf. 

" Salawakkee ! " ^ cried John, as he drove away ; and 
the strangers cried back, '' Chalamu ! " ^ 

I wonder what has become of that little baby for 
whom I sat the night out? It is over ten years ago 
now, and he has probably long since been compelled 
to play his part in crime, and scratch and fight as his 
older brothers and sisters did on that autumn Sunday 
morning. Certainly there is nowhere in the world a 

1 So long. 2 Live well. 

The Children of the Road 33 

more ferocious set of children than these of the am- 
bulanters. From morning till night it is one continual 
snap and bite, and the depraved fathers and mothers 
look on and grin. They have not the faintest ideal of 
home, and their only outlook in life is some day to 
have a ''rig" of their own and prowl throughout the 
land, seeking whom they may devour. To tame them 
is a task requiring almost divine patience. I should 
not know how to get at them. They laugh at tender- 
ness, never say '' Thank you," and obey their parents only 
when driven with boot and whip. I wish that I could 
suggest some gentle method by which they could be 
rescued from the road and made good men and 
women. It always seems harsh to apply strict law to 
delinquents so young and practically innocent, but it 
is the only remedy I can offer. They must be put un- 
der stiff rule and order, and trained strictly and long. 
Although lacking gipsy blood, they have acquired 
gipsy character, and it will take generations to get 
it out of them. Just how many children are born on 
the road is a question which even the ambulanter 
would find difficult to answer. They are scattered so 
widely and in such out-of-the-way places that a census 
is almost impossible. In the families that I have met 
there have never been less than four children. Gipsy 
Sam once told me that he believed there were at least 
two hundred ambulanter families in the United States, 
but this will strike every one as a low estimate ; how- 
ever, if this is true, and each family has as many boys 
and girls as those that I have met, then there must be 
at least a thousand of their kind. 

Another kind of ragamuffin, also born on the road, 

34 Tramping with Tramps 

and in many ways akin to the ambulanter, although 
wanting such classification, is the one found so often 
in those families which every community supports, 
but relegates to its uttermost boundary-lines. They 
are known as "the McCarthys," "the Night-Hawks," 
or " the Holy Frights," as the case may be. I have 
found no town in the United States of twenty thou- 
sand inhabitants without some such little Whitechapel 
in its vicinity, and, like the famous original, it is often 
considered dangerous to enter unarmed. Speaking 
generally, there is a great deal of fiction afloat con- 
cerning these tabooed families, a number of them 
being simply poor or lazy people whom the boys of 
the vicinity have exaggerated into gangs of despera- 
dos. There are, however, some that are really very 
bad, and I have found them even in new little vil- 
lages. They are not exactly out-and-out criminals 
whom the police can get hold of, but moral lepers who 
by public consent have been sentenced to live without 
the pale of civilization. 

Some years ago I had occasion to visit one of these 
miniature Whitechapels. It was situated in a piece 
of woods not far from St. Paul, Minnesota, and be- 
longed by right of appropriation to three families who 
were called " the Stansons." A tramp friend of mine 
had been taken sick in their camp, and I was in duty 
bound to go out to see him. I managed to find the 
settlement all right, but was stopped about a hundred 
yards from the log shanties by a bushy-bearded man, 
barefooted and clad only in trousers, who asked my 
errand. My story evidently satisfied him, for he led 
the way to the largest of the shanties, where I found 

The Children of the Road 37 

my friend. He was lying in the middle of the floor 
on some straw, the only furniture in the room being 
a shaky table and a three-legged chair. All about him, 
some even lying in the straw beside him, were half- 
clothed children of both sexes, i)laying "craps" and 
eating hunks of bread well daubed with molasses. I 
counted nine in that shanty alone, and about as many 
again in the other two. They belonged severally to 
six women who were apportioned after Mormon cus- 
tom to three men. The tramp told me in his dialect 
that they really were Mormons and came from Utah. 
He was passing by their " hang-out," as he called it, 
when taken ill, and they hospitably lodged him. He 
said they had not been there long, having come up the 
river from Des Moines, Iowa, where they had also had 
a camp ; but long enough, I discovered on my return 
to St. Paul, to acquire a reputation among the city 
lads for all kinds of ''toughness." I suppose they 
were ''tough" when considered from certain view- 
points, but, as the tramp said, it was the silliest kind 
he had known. They were not thieves, and only luke- 
warm beggars, but they did seem to love their outland- 
ish existence. The children interested me especially, 
for they all spoke a queer jargon which they them- 
selves had invented. It was something like the well- 
known " pig Latin " that all sorts of children like to 
play with, but much more complicated and difficult to 
understand. And, except the very youngest, who 
naturally cried a little, they were the jolliest children 
I have ever seen in such terrible circumstances. The 
mothers were the main breadwinners, and while I 
was there one of them started off to town on a beg- 

38 Tramping with Tramps 

ging trip, with a batch of children as ^^guy." The 
men sat around, smoked, and talked abont the woods. 
The tramp told me later, however, that they occasion- 
ally raided a hen-roost. Since my visit to the Stan- 
sons I have seen three of the children in different 
places: one, a cripple, was begging at the World's 
Fair ; another was knocking about the Bowery ; and 
the third, a girl, was traveling with an ambulanter in 
the Mohawk valley. 

Not all of these families are like the Stansons. A 
number are simply rough-and-tumble people who 
haunt the outskirts of provincial towns, and live 
partly by pilfering and partly from the municipal fund 
for the poor. Somehow or other the children always 
dodge the school commissioners, and grow up, I am 
sorry to say, very much like their usually unmarried 
parents. On the other hand, there are several well- 
known organized bands, and they thrive mainly, I 
think, in the South and West. Near New Orleans 
there used to be, and for aught I know they are still 
there, '^ the Jim Jams " and " the Rincheros " ; near 
Cairo, Illinois, "the River Rats"; near Chicago, "the 
Dippers '' ; and not far from New York, in the Ramapo 
Mountains, I knew of " the Sliders," but they have 
since moved on to new fields. Each of these families, 
or collection of families, had its full quota of children. 
Very often the public becomes so enraged at their 
petty thefts that an investigation is ordered, and then 
there is a sudden packing of traps and quick departure 
to a different neighborhood, where a new name is in- 
vented. But the family itself never dies out entirely. 

There are a few children who are born in Hoboland. 

The Children of the Road 39 

Now and then, as one travels along the railway lines, 
he will come to a hastily improvised camp, where a 
pale, haggard woman is lying, and beside her a puny 
infant, scarcely clothed, blinking with eyes of wonder 
upon the new world about him. I know of no sadder 
sight than this in all trampdom. Not even the acci- 
dent of motherhood can make the woman anything 
but unhuman, and the child, if he lives, grows up in 
a world which I believe is unequaled for certain forms 
of wickedness. Fortunately, his little body usually 
tires of the life ere he comes to realize what it is, and 
his soul wanders back to regions of innocence, unsoiled 
and unscarred. 

I wonder whether there are still men in Hoboland 
who remember that interesting little fellow called 
" the Cheyenne Baby " ? Surely there are some who 
have not forgotten his grotesque vocabulary, and his 
utterly overpowering way of using it. There are 
different stories concerning his origin, and they vary 
in truthfulness, I have heard, as one travels southward 
from the Northern Pacific to Santa Fe. I give the one 
told in Colorado. It may be only a ^' ghost-story," and 
it may be true ; all that I know is that it is not im- 
possible. According to its teaching, his mother was 
once respectable and belonged to the politest society 
in the Indian Territory. When quite a young girl she 
carelessly fell in love with a handsome Indian chief, 
and, much to the disgust of her friends, married him 
and went away into his camp. It must have been a 
wild life that she led there, for within a year she was 
separated from him and living with another Indian. 
It is the same pitiful story for the next five years j 

40 Tramping with Tramps 

she was knocked about from tent to tent and camp to 
camp. Her enemies say that she liked that kind of 
hfe, but her friends know better, and claim that she 
was ashamed to go home. However it was, she went over 
to the cow-boys after a while, and it was then that the 
baby was born, and she met the man, whoever he was, 
that introduced her into Hoboland. She appeared 
one night at a hang-out near Denver, and there was 
something so peculiarly forlorn about her that the 
men took pity on her and pressed her to stay. This 
she did, and for some time traveled with the hoboes 
throughout the districts lying between Cheyenne and 
Santa Fe. The boy became a sort of " mascot," and 
was probably the only child in Hoboland who was ever 
taught to be really good. The mother had stipulated 
with the men that they should never teach him any- 
thing bad, and the idea struck them as so comical that 
they fell in with it. Though thej swore continually 
in his presence, they invariably gave him some re- 
spectable version of the conversation ; and while 
about the only words he knew were curses, he was 
made to believe they signified the nicest things in the 
world. He died just as unknowing as he had lived, 
but it was a cruel death. He and his mother, together 
with some companions, were caught one night in a 
wreck on the Union Pacific, and all that the survivors 
could find of him to bury was his right arm. But that 
was bravely honored, and, unless the coyotes have torn 
down the wooden slab, the grave can still be found on 
the prairies. 

I cannot leave this division of my theme without 
saying something about that large army of unfathered 

The Children of the Road 41 

children who, to my mind, are just as much born on 
the road as the less known types. True, many of 
them are handed over at birth to some family to sup- 
port, but the great majority of these families are not 
one whit better than the ambulanters. They train the 
orphans put into their care, in sin and crime, quite as 
carefully as the hobo does his beggar boy. These are ^ 
the children who make up the main body of the class 
I have been considering, and it seems to me that they 
increase from year to year. At present the only 
legitimate career for them is that of the outcast, and 
into it they go. Few, indeed, succeed in gaining a 
foothold in polite society. Their little lives form the 
border-land of my second class, the children driven to 
the road. 


Concerning the children who are forced upon the 
road there is a great deal to be said, but much of this 
talk should be directed against the popular belief 
that their number is legion. Socialists particularly 
think that hundreds upon hundreds of boys and 
girls are compelled by hunger to beg and steal for 
a living. In England I once heard a labor agitator 
declare that there are a million of these juvenile 
^'victims of capital" in the United States alone. I 
do not know where the man got his information, 
but if my finding counts for anything it is deplor- 
ably unsound. I cannot claim to have studied the 
subject as carefully as is necessary to know it abso- 
lutely, but in most of our large cities I have given it 
close attention, and never have I found anything like 

42 Tramping with Tramps 

the state of affairs which even the general public be- 
lieves to exist. For every child forced by starvation 
to resort to the road I have met ten who were born 
there, and nearly the same number who were enticed 
there. In saying this, however, I do not want to draw 
emphasis or sympathy away from that certainly exist- 
ing class of children who really have been driven into 
outlawry. But it is an injustice to our sober poor to 
say that they exist in those large numbers that are so 
often quoted. Not long ago I made it my special 
business for a while to look into the condition of some 
of these compulsory little vagabonds in New York 
city. I picked out those children whom one sees so 
often pilfering slyly from the groceryman's sidewalk 
display. It is an old, old trick. The youngsters di- 
vide themselves into '' watchers" and "snatchers"; 
the former keeping an eye on the police as well as the 
owners of the things coveted, and the latter grabbing 
when the wink is given. The crime itself is not a 
heavy one according to the calendar, but it is only a 
step from this to picking pockets, and only a half -step 
farther to highway robbery. I chose this particular 
class because I had often noticed the members of it in 
my walks through the city, and it had seemed to me 
the least necessary of all. Then, too, there was some- 
thing in the pinched faces that made me anxious to 
know the children personally on grounds of charity. 
The great majority of youthful travelers on the road 
are comparatively well fed, to say the least, and, much 
as one pities their fate, he will seldom have cause to 
weep over their starved condition. But here was 
something different, and I fancied that I was to get a 

The Children of the Road 43 

glimpse into the Hfe of those people to whom the 
socialist points when asked for living examples of 
human woe caused by inhuman capitalists. 

It was not hard to *'get in" with the children. 
Finding that I was willing to play with them at their 
games in the alleys and on top of their rickety tene- 
ment-houses, they edged up to me rather cordially, and 
we were soon '' pals." There was nothing very new in 
their life, but I was struck with the great interest 
they took in their petty thefts. In the midst of the 
most boisterous play they would gladly stop if some 
one suggested a clever plan by which even a can of 
preserves could be ^^ swiped," as they called it, and the 
next instant they were trying to carry it to a finish. 
They were not what I could call instinctive criminals 
—far from it ; but a long intimacy with the practices 
of outlawry, though small in their w^ay, had so dead- 
ened their moral sense that sneak-thieving came to 
them almost as naturally as it does to the klepto- 
maniac. Even in their games they cheated whenever 
it was possible, and it seemed to me that the main fun 
was seeing how cleverly and j^et boldly they could 
do so without being detected. I recall distinctly one 
afternoon when we were playing ^' Hi spy." A little 
fellow called Jamie took me aside, and in the most 
friendly way advised me not to be so ^' goody-goody." 
I had been very unlucky in getting caught, and he 
said that it was because I gave in too quickly. 

''When ye hear yer name," he continued, "jus' lie 
low, 'cause like as not the catcher ain't seen ye, 'n' if 
he has he can't prove it; so ye 'r' all right anyhow. 
Ye '11 always be ' It ' if ye don't do something like that ; 

44 Tramping with Tramps 

'n' there ain't no fun in that, is there?" he added, 
winking his left eye in a truly professional manner. 

So much for their native endowment. Their ac- 
complishment in thieving, I have no doubt, kept them 
often from going hungry, notwithstanding the fact 
that there was honest industry at home, generally 
that of the mother, while the father's earnings went 
almost bodily into the publican's till. 

I found it much more difficult to make friends with 
the parents, but succeeded in several cases — that is, 
with the mother ; the father I usuallv found drunk at 
the saloon. I shall not try to give an account of the 
squalor and sorrow that I encountered ; this has been 
done in other places by far more able pens than mine ; 
but I cannot forbear making a note of one little 
woman whom I saw sewing her very life away, and 
thinking all the while that she was really supporting 
her hungry children. I shall never forget the picture 
she made as she sat there by the alley window, driving 
the needle with liglitning-like rapidity through the 
cloth— a veritable Madonna of the Needle. Her good 
cheer was something stupendous. Not once did she 
murmur, and when her brute of a husband returned, 
insanely intoxicated, she took care of him as if he 
were the best man in the world. I was careful that 
she did not hear from me about the tricks of her way- 
ward children. Some day, however, I fear that one 
of them will be missing, and when she goes to the 
police station to make inquiries I should rather not 
confront her. The main reason why hungry boys 
and girls are found upon the road is drunken fathers. 

There are also children who, instead of being forced 

The Children of the Road 45 

to steal, are sent out into the streets by their parents 
to beg. From morning till night they trudge along 
the busy thoroughfares, dodging with cat-like agility 
the lumbering wagons that bear down upon them, and 
accosting every person whom their trained eyes find 
at all likely to listen to their appeals. Late at night, 
if perchance they have had the necessary luck during 
the day, they crawl back to their hovels and hand over 
the winnings to their heavy-eyed fathers. Or, as often 
happens, if the day has been unsuccessful and the 
pennies are not numerous enough to satisfy their 
cruel masters, they take refuge in some box or barrel, 
and pray to the beggar's Providence that the next day 
will go better. 

They come, as a rule, from our foreign population. 
I have never found one with American-born parents, 
and in many instances the children themselves have 
emigrated from Europe, usually from Italy. There is 
no doubt that they have to beg to live ; but when one 
looks a little further into their cases, a lazy or dissi- 
pated parent is usually the one to blame. Then, too, 
mendicancy is not considered disgraceful among many 
of our immigrants, and they send their children into 
the streets of our cities quite as freely as they do at 
home. They also are mainly at fault for that awful 
institution which some of our large towns support, 
where babies are rented to grown-up beggars to excite 
the sympathy of the passers-by. I looked into one of 
these places in San Francisco, while traveling with the 
hoboes, and it was the very counterpart of an African 
slave-market. A French-Canadian woman, old enough 
to be the great-grandmother of all her wares, kept it. 

46 Tramping with Tramps 

She rented the babies from poverty-stricken mothers, 
and re-rented them at a profit to the begging women 
of the town. There were two customers in the place 
when I entered, and the old wretch was trying in true 
peddler style to bring out the good points of four lit- 
tle bits of humanity cuddled together on a plank bed. 

^^ Oh, he 's just the kind you want," she said to one 
of the women; ''never cries, and"— leaning over, she 
whispered in a Shylock voice — ''he don't eat hardly 
anything ; lialf a hottle 0' milk does him the tvhole dayP 

The woman was satisfied, and, paying her deposit 
of two dollars, took the sickly thing in her arms and 
went out into the town. The other could find nothing 
that suited her, but promised to return the next day, 
when a "new batch " was expected. 

Such are the main avenues by which boys and girls 
are driven to the road in the United States. Hunger, 
I candidly admit, is the whip in many instances, but 
the wielder of it is more often than not the drunken 
father or mother. It is the hunger that comes of self- 
ish indulgence, and not of ill adjusted labor condi- 


Of my third class, those who are enticed to the 
road,— and their number is legion,— I have been able 
to discover three different types. The old roadster 
knows them all. Wherever he goes they cross his path, 
and beg him to stop awhile and tell them of his 
travels. They seem to realize that they have been 
swindled— that the road is, after all, only a tantaliz- 
ing delusion ; but they cannot understand why it ap- 

The Children of the Road 47 

peals to so many of their elders, and it is in the hope 
that these will in the end put them on the right track 
for the fun they are seeking that they hail them, and 
cry, " What cheer ? " It is a pitiful call, this, and even 
the " old stager " winces at times on hearing it ; but he 
cannot bring himself to go back on ^' the profession," 
and quickly conquering his emotion, he gives the tiny 
traveler fresh directions. The boy starts out anew, 
hoping against experience that he is at last on the 
right route, and plods on eagerly until stopped again 
at some troublesome cross-road where he does not 
know which turn to take. Once more he asks for di- 
rections, once more receives them, and so the ceaseless 
trudge goes on. It is mainly at the cross-roads that 
I have learned to know these children. Notwithstand- 
ing my alien position, they have hailed me too, and 
inquired for sign-posts. I have seldom been able to 
help them, even in the way that I most desired, but 
surely therer are others who can. 

The children of this third class that one meets of ten- 
est are what the older travelers call " worshipers of the 
tough." They have somehow got the idea that cow-boy 
swagger and the criminal's lingo are the main features \J 
of a manly man, and having an abnormal desire to 
realize their ideal as quickly as possible, they go forth to 
acquire them. The hunt soon lures them to the road, 
and up and down its length they scamper, with faces 
so eager and intent that one is seldom at a loss to 
know what they are seeking. There are different ex- 
planations of the charm that this wild life has for 
them. A great many people believe that it is purely 
and simply the work of the devil on their evil-bent 

48 Tramping with Tramps 

natures ; others, that it is the result of bad training ; 
and still others, that it is one form of the mimicry 
with which every child is endowed in larger or smaller 
degree. I favor the last opinion. In the bottom of 
their hearts they are no worse than the average boy 
and girl, but they have been unfortunate enough to 
see a picture or bear a story of some famous rascal, 
and it has lodged in their brains, until the temptation 
to *^ go and do likewise " has come upon them with 
such overwhelming force that they simply cannot re- 
sist. Each one has some particular pattern continu- 
ally before his eyes, and only as he approaches it 
1/ does he feel that he is becoming tough. Now it is 
^'Blinkey Morgan" that fascinates him, and, despite 
his terrible end, he strives to be like him ; then it is 
'^Wild BiU," whoever he may be; and not unfre- 
quently it is a character that has existed only in dime 
novels, or not even so substantially as that. 

I remember well a little fellow, about thirteen years 
old, who appeared in Indian-scout attire one night 
at a hang-out near McCook, Nebraska. He dropped 
in while the tramps were cooking their coffee, and 
seldom has there been such a laugh on the " Q " rail- 
road as they gave on seeing him. It was impolite, 
and they begged his pardon later, but even his guar- 
dian angel would have smiled. He was dressed from 
head to foot in leather clothes each piece made by 
himself, he said, and at his belt hung an enormous 
revolver, which some one had been careful enough to 
make useless by taking out an important screw. It 
was in the hope of finding one at the camp that he 
visited it, but the men made so much of him that he 

The Children of the Road 


remained until his story was told. It was not remark- 
ably new, for all that he wanted was a chance to shoot 
Indians, but his hero was a little unusual,— Kalama- 
zoo Chickamauga, he called him. When asked who 
he was and where he had lived, all that the youngster 
could say was that he had dreamed about him ! I 
saw him again a week or so later, not far from Denver, 
tramping along over the railroad-ties with long strides 
far beyond his measure, and he hoped to be at " Dead- 
town," as he miscalled Deadwood, in a few days. He 
had not yet found a screw for his '^ gun," but he was 
sure that "■ Buffalo Charley " would give him one. 

Of course this is a unique case, in a way, for one 
does not meet many lads in such an outfit, but there 
are scores of others just as sincere and fully as inno- 
cent. If one could only get hold of them ere they 
reach the road, nearly all could be brought to reason. 
They are the most impressionable children in the 
world, and there must be a way by which this very 
quality may be turned to their advantage. What this 
way shall be can be determined only by those who 
know well the needs of each child, but there is one 
suggestion I cannot forbear making. Let everything 
possible be done to keep these sensitive boys and girls, 
but particularly the former, from familiarity with 
crime. Do not thrust desperadoism upon them from 
the shop-windows through the picture-covered dime 
novels and the flaring faces of the "Police Gazette." y 
It is just such teaching by suggestion that starts 
many an honest but romantic boy off to the road, ^ 
when a little cautious legislation might save him years 
of foolish wandering, and the State the expense of 


50 Tramping with Tramps 

housing him in its reformatories later on. I write 
with feeling at this point, for I know from personal 
experience what tantalizing thoughts a dime novel 
will awaken in such a boy's mind. One of these 
thoughts will play more havoc with his youth than can 
be made good in his manhood, and lucky is he whom 
it does not lure on and on until the return path is for- 
ever lost. 

Something like these children in temperament, but 
totally different in most other respects, are those lads 
that one meets so often on our railroads, drifting about 
for a month or so from town to town, seldom stopping 
in any of them over a day, and then suddenly disap- 
pearing, no one knows where, to appear again, later, 
on another railroad, frequently enough a thousand 
miles distant. Occasionally they are missed from the 
road for over a year, and there is absolutely no news 
of their whereabouts ; but just as they are almost for- 
gotten they come forward once more, make a few 
journeys on the freight- trains, and vanish again. 
There are cases on record where they have kept this 
up for years, some of them coming and going with 
such regularity that their appearances may be calcu- 
lated exactly. Out West, not very long ago, there was 
a little chap who ^' showed up" in this way, to use the 
expression that the brakemen applied to him, every 
six weeks for three years, but this was all that was 
known concerning him. When asked who he was and 
where he belonged, he gave such evasive answers that 
it was impossible to come to any trustworthy conclu- 
sion about him. He would have nothing to do with 
the people he met, and I have heard that he always 


The Children of the Road 53 

rode alone in the box-cars. In this last respect he 
was a notable exception, for, as a rule, these little 
nomads take great pleasure in talking with strangers, 
but they are careful not to say too much about them- 
selves. They ask questions principally, and skip from 
one subject to another with a butterfl}^ rapidity, but 
manage to pick up a great deal of knowledge of the 

The tramps' theory of them is that they are pos- 
sessed of the '^ railroad fever," and I am inclined to 
agree with them, but I accept the expression in its 
broader sense of Waiiderlust. They w^ant to get out 
into the world, and at stated periods the desire is so 
strong and the road so handy that they simply can- 
not resist the temptation to explore it. A few weeks 
usually suffice to cool their ardor, and then they run 
home quite as summarily as they left, but they stay 
only until the next runaway mood seizes them. I 
have been successful in getting really well acquainted 
"w^ith several of these interesting wanderers, and in 
each case this has been tlie situation. They do not 
want to be tough, and many of them could not be if 
they tried ; but they have a passion for seeing things 
on their own hook, and if the mood for a ^'trip" 
comes, it seems to them the most natural thing in the 
world to indulge it. If they had the means they 
would ride on Pullman cars and imagine themselves 
princes, but lacking the w^herewithal, they take to the 

I knew in New York State a boy of this sort who had 
as comfortable a home as a child could wish, but he 
was cursed with this strange Wanderhisf, and through- 

^4 Tramping with Tramps 

out Ins boyhood there was hardly a month that he did 
not run away. The queerest things enticed him to go. 
Sometimes the whistle of a railway-engine was enough 
to make him wild with unrest, and again the sight of 
the tame but to him fascinating village street was 
sufficient to set him planning his route of travel. In 
every escapade it was his imagination that stampeded 
him. Many a time, when he was in the most docile of 
moods, some fanciful thought of the world at large, 
and what it held in waiting for him, would dance 
across his brain, and before he could analyze it, or 
detect the swindle, he was scampering off for the rail- 
road station. Now it was a wish to go West and 
play trapper and scout, and then it was the dream of 
American boyhood,— a life cramped but struggling, 
and emerging in glorious success as candidate for the 
Presidency. Garfield's biography, I remember, once 
started him on such a journey, and it took years to 
get the notion out of his head that simply living 
and striving as Garfield did was sure to bring the 
same results. Frequently his wanderings ended sev- 
eral hundred miles from home, but much oftener in 
some distracting vagabond's hang-out in a neigh- 
1/ boring city. Fortunately the fever burned itself out 
ere he had learned to like the road for its own sake, 
and he lived to wonder how he had harbored or in- 
dulged such insane impulses. A large number of 
these truants, however, have no good homes and in- 
dulgent parents to return to, and after a while the 
repeated punishment seems to them so unjust and 
cruel that there comes a trip which never ends. 
The Wanderlust becomes chronic, and mainly because 

The Children of the Road 55 

it was not treated properly in its intermittent stage. 
There is no use in whipping these children ; they are 
not to blame ; all that one can do is to busy their 
imaginations in wholesome ways, watch them care- 
fully, and, if they must wander, direct their wander- 
ings. In many cases this is possible, for the fever 
breaks out among children of the best birth as well as 
among those of the lowest ; and in these instances, at 
least, the parents have much to answer for if the chil- 
dren reach the road. I look upon this fever as quite 
as much of a disease as the craze to steal which is 
found now and then in some child's character, and it 
deserves the same careful treatment. Punishment 
only aggravates it, and develops in the boy a feeUng 
of hatred for all about him. I firmly believe that 
some day this trouble in so many boys' lives will be 
pathologically treated by medical men, and the sooner 
that day comes the better will it be for many unfor- 
tunate children. 

It is a different story that I have to teU of the chil- 
dren decoyed into Hoboland. True, they also are, 
in a measure, seized with this same Wanderlust, and 
without this it would be impossible for the tramp to in- 
fluence them as he does ; but, on the other hand, with- 
out him to excite and direct this passion, very few of 
them would ever reach trampdom. He happens along 
at their very weakest moments, and, perceiving his 
advantage, cruelly fires their imagination with tales 
of adventure and travel, and before they discover their 
danger he has them in his clutches. It is really one 
of the wonders of the world, the power that this ugly, 
dissipated, tattered man has over the children he 

56 Tramping with Tramps 

meets. In no other country that I have visited is 
there anything like it. He stops at a town for a few 
hours, collects the likely boys about him at his hang- 
out, picks out the one that he thinks will serve him 
best, and then begins systematically to fascinate him. 
If he understands the art well (and it is a carefully 
studied art), he can almost always get the one he 
wants. Often enough his choice is some well-bred 
child, unaccustomed, outside his dreams, to any such 
Hfe, but the man knows so perf ectl}^ how to piece out 
those dreams and make them seducingly real that in 
a moment of enthusiasm the youngster gives himself 
up to the bewitching influence and allows the wretch 
to lead him away. As a rule, however, his victims are 
the children of the poor, for they are the easiest to 
approach. A few hours of careful tactics, provided 
they are in the mood, and he has one of them riding 
away with him, not merely in the box-car of a freight- 
train, but on the through train to Hoboland. 

Watch him at his preliminary work. He is seated 
on the top of an ash-barrel in a filthy back alley. A 
crowd of gamins gaze up at him with admiring eyes. 
When he tells his ghost-stories, each one thinks that 
he is being talked to just as much as the rest, and yet 
somehow, little by little, there is a favorite who is 
getting more and more than his share of the winks 
and smiles ; soon the most exciting parts of the stories 
are gradually devoted to him alone, but in such an 
artful way that he himself fails to notice it at first. 
It is not long, however, before he feels his impor- 
tance. He begins to wink, too, but just as slyly as 
his charmer, and his little mouth curls into a return 

The Children of the Road 57 

smile when the others are not looking. '* I 'm his fa- 
vorite, I am," he thinks. "He '11 take me with him, 
he will, and show me things." 

lie is what the hobo calls " peetrified," which means, 
as much as anything else, hypnotized. The stories 
that he has heard amount to very little in themselves, 
but the way they are told, the happy-go-lucky man- 
ner, the subtle partiality, the winning voice, and 
the sensitiveness of the boy's nature to things of 
wonder, all combine to turn his head. Then his 
own parents cannot control him as can this slouch- 
ing wizard. 

In Hoboland the boy's life may be likened to that 
of a voluntary slave. He is forced to do exactly what 
his "jocker" commands, and disobedience, wilful or 
innocent, brings down upon him a most cruel wrath. 
Besides being kicked, slapped, and generally mal- 
treated, he is also loaned, traded, and even sold, if his 
master sees money in the bargain. There are, of 
course, exceptions, for I have myself known some 
jockers to be almost as kind as fathers to their boys, 
but they are such rarities that one can never count 
upon them. When a lad enters trampdom he must 
be prepared for all kinds of brutal treatment, and the 
sooner he forgets home gentleness the better will it be 
for him. In payment for all this suffering and rough 
handling, he is told throughout his apprenticeship 
that some day he too will be able to " snare " a boy, 
and make him beg and slave for him as he has slaved 
for others. This is the one reward that tramps hold 
out to their " prushuns," and the little fellows cherish 
it so long that, when their emancipation finally comes, 

58 Tramping with Tramps 

nearly all start off to do the very same thing that was 
done to them when they were children. 

West of the Mississippi River there is a regular 
gang of these " ex-kids/' as they are termed in the 
vernacular, and all are supposed to be looking for re- 
venge. Until they get it there is still something of 
the prushun about them which makes them unwelcome 
in the old stager class. So they prowl about the 
community from place to place, looking eagerly for 
some weak lad whom they can decoy and show to 
the fraternity as evidence of their full membership. 
They never seem to realize what an awful thing they 
are doing. If you remonstrate with them, they reply : 
" W'y, you don't think we Ve been slavin' all this while 
f er nothin', do you ? It 's our turn to play jocker now," 
and, with a fiendish look in their eyes, they turn and 
stalk away. Ten years and more of tramp life have 
killed their better natures, and all that they can think 
of is vengeance, unscrupulous and sure. In this way 
the number of boys in Hoboland is always kept up to a 
certain standard. Every year a number are graduated 
from the prushun class, and go out into the world im- 
mediately to find younger children to take the places 
they have left. In time these do the same thing, and so 
on, until to-day there is no line of outlawry so sure of re- 
cruits as vagabondage. Each beggar is a propagandist, 
and his brethren expect of him at least one convert. 


There is not much that I can say of the children 
who go to the road voluntarily. I am sure that there 
are such, for I have traveled with them, but it has 


The Children of the Road 61 

been impossible for me to get into their life intimately 
enough to speak of it intelligently. Even the men 
constantly in their company can say but little about 
them. When asked for an explanation, they shake 
their heads and call them ^4ittle devils"; but why 
they are so, what it is that they are seeking, and where 
they come from, are questions to which they are unable 
to give any satisfactory replies. I know about twenty, 
all told, and, as far as I have been successful in ob- 
serving them, they seem to me to belong to that class 
of children which the criminologist Lombroso finds 
morally delinquent at birth. Certainly it would be 
hard to account for their abnormal criminal sense on 
any other ground. They take to the road as to their 
normal element, and are on it but a short time ere 
they know almost as much as the oldest travelers. 
Their minds seem bent toward crime and vagabondage, 
and their intuitive powers almost uncanny. To hear 
them talk makes one think, if he shuts his eyes, that 
he is in the presence of trained criminal artists, and I 
have sometimes imagined that they were not children, 
but dwarfed men born out of due time. They under- 
take successfully some of the most dangerous rob- 
beries in the world, and come off scot-free, so that old 
and experienced thieves simply stare and wonder. The 
temptation is to think that they are accidents, but they 
recur so frequently as to demand a theory of origin 
and existence. They are, I do not doubt, the product 
of criminal breeding, and are just as much admired in 
the criminal world as are the feats of some Wiinder- 
Jcind, for instance, among musicians. Watch the scene 
in an outcasts' den when one of these queer little crea- 

62 Tramping with Tramps 

tures comes m, and you may see the very same thing 
that goes on in the ''artist's box" at some concert 
where a prodigy is performing. The people swarm 
around him, pet him, make him laugh and talk, till 
the proprietor finds him a valuable drawing card for 
the establishment. The child himself seldom realizes 
his importance, and, when off duty, plays at games in 
keeping with his age. The instant business is sug- 
gested, however, his countenance assumes a most seri- 
ous air, and it is then that one wonders whether he is 
not, after all, some skilful old soul traveling back 
through life in a fresh young body. Indeed, there is 
so much in his case that appeals to my sense of won- 
der that I simply cannot study him for what he is ; but 
there are those who can do this, and I promise them 
a most interesting field of observation. I know 
enough about it to believe that if it can be thoroughly 
explored there will be a great change in the punish- 
ment of criminals. These boys have in them in 
largest measure what the entire body of moral delin- 
quents possesses in some degree ; and when these baf- 
fling characteristics have been definitely analyzed and 
placed, penology will start on a fresh course. 

It may be worth while to say what I can about their 
physical appearance. The most of them have seemed 
to me to have fairly well-formed bodies, but something 
out of the ordinary in their eyes, and in a few cases 
in the entire face. Sometimes the left eye has drooped 
very noticeably, and one boy that I recall had some- 
thing akin to a description I once heard of the '' evil 
eye." It was a gipsy who explained it to me ; and if 
he was right, that a " little curtain," capable of falling 

The Children of the Road 63 

over the eyeball at will, is the main curiosity, then 
this boy had the evil eye. He could throw a film over 
his eye in the most distressing fashion, and delighted 
in the power to do so ; indeed, it was his main way of 
teasing people. He knew that it was not a pleasant 
sight, and if he had a petty grudge to gratify, he chose 
this very effective torment. Concerning the faces, it 
is difficult to explain just what was the matter. They 
were not exactly deformed, but there was a peculiar 
depravity about them that one could but notice in- 
stantly. At times I fancied that it was in the arrange- 
ment of features ratlier than acquired expression of 
the life ; but there were cases where the effects of evil 
environment and cruel abuse were plain to see. I 
have sometimes taken the pains to look up the parents 
of a child who thus interested me, but I could not 
discover any similar depravity in their countenances. 
There was depravity there, to be sure, but of a differ- 
ent kind. I believe that the parents of these children, 
and especially the mothers, could tell a great deal con- 
cerning them, and the theorists in criminology will 
never be thoroughly equipped for their work till all 
this evidence has been heard. 

The foregoing is but a partial summary of several 
years^ experience with the children of the road. It is 
far from being what I should like to write about them, 
but perhaps enough has been said to forestate the 
problem as it appears to one who has traveled with 
these children and learned to know them ''in the 
open." Surely there is kindness and ingenuity enough 
in the world to devise a plan or a system by which 

64 Tramping with Tramps 

they may be snatched from the road and restored to 
their better selves. Surely, too, these little epitomes 
of Wanderlust, and even of crime, are not to bafBle 
philanthropy and science forever, I feel sure that, 
whatever may be the answer to the thousand questions 
which center in this problem, one thing can be done, 
and done at once. Wherever law is able to deal with 
these children, let it be done on the basis of an in- 
telligent classification. In punishing them for their 
misdemeanors and crimes, let them not be tumbled 
indiscriminately into massive reform institutions, offi- 
cered by political appointment and managed with an 
eye to the immediate interests of the taxpayer instead 
of the welfare of the inmates. The one practical re- 
source that lies nearest to our hand as philanthropic 
sociologists is the reform of the reformatories. We 
may not hope to reach in many generations the last 
sources of juvenile crime, but we are deserving of a 
far worse punishment than these moral delinquents if, 
being well born and well bred, we do not set ourselves 
resolutely to the bettering of penal conditions once 

First of all, we must have a humane and scientific 
separation of the inmates in all these reformatories. 
Sex, age, height, and weight are not the only things 
to be taken into consideration when dealing with err- 
ing children. Birth, temperament, habits, education, 
and experience are questions of far more vital impor- 
tance, and it is no unreasonable demand upon the State 
that careful attention to each of these points be re- 
quired in the scheme of such institutions. Put an 
ambulanter's child with a simple runaway boy, and 

The Children of the Road 65 

there will be two ambulanters ; associate a youngster 
with the passion to be tough with a companion 
innately criminal, and the latter will be the leader. 
The law of the survival of the fittest is just as opera- 
tive in low life as in any other. In such spheres the 
worst natures are the fittest, and the partially good 
must yield to them unless zealously defended by out- 
side help. It is suicidal to put them together, and 
wherever this is done, especially among children, there 
need be no surprise if criminals, and not citizens, are 

Second, the management of reformatories should be 
in scientific hands ; and just here I am constrained to 
plead for the training of young men and women for 
the rare usefulness that awaits them in such institu- 
tions. It is to these places that the children I have 
been describing will have to go, and, with aU respect 
to the officials now in charge, I believe that there are 
apt and gifted young men and women in this country 
who could bring to them invaluable assistance, if they 
could only be persuaded to train for it and to offer it. 
I do not know why it is, but for some reason these 
institutions do not yet appeal to any large number of 
students who intend taking service in the ranks of ^ 
reform. The university settlement attracts many, and 
this is one of the finest manifestations of the universal 
brotherhood which is to be. Meanwhile, there is a 
moral hospital service to be carried on in penal and 
reformatory houses. Shall it be done by raw, un- 
trained hands, by selfish quacks, or by careful, scien- 
tific students? Must the moral nurse and physician 
be chosen for his ability to control votes, or to treat 

66 Tramping with Tramps 

his patients with skilled attention and consideration ? 
If the treatment of physical disease offers attractions 
that call thousands upon thousands of young men and 
women into the nursing and medical professions, here 
is a field even more fascinating to the student, and so 
full of opportunity and interesting employment that 
it will be a matter of wonder if the supply does not 
speedily exceed the demand. 

There is one thing more. Reformatories, planned, 
officered, and conducted according to the principles of 
scientific philanthropy, should be stationed, not at the 
end of the road, but at the junction of all by-paths 
that leads into it. 



ONE of the first noticeable features of low life is 
its gregariousness. To be alone, except in a few 
cases where a certain morbidity and peculiar fondness 
for isolation prevail, is almost the worst punishment 
that can befall the outcast. There is a variety of 
causes for this, but I think the main one is the desire 
to feel that although he is forbidden the privileges and 
rights of a polite society, he can nevertheless identify 
himself with just as definite and exclusive a commu- 
nity as the one he has been turned out of. 

His specialty in crime and rowdyism determines the 
particular form and direction of his social life. If he 
is a tramp he wants to know his partners, and the 
same instinct prevails in all other fields of outlawry. 
In time, and as he comes to see that his world is a 
large one,— so large, in fact, that he can never under- 
stand it all,— he chooses as he can those particular 
" pals " with whom he can get on the easiest. Out of 
this choice there develops what I call the outcast^s 
club. He himself calls it a gang, and his club-house 
a ^' hang-out." It is of such clubs that I v/ant to write 


68 Tramping with Tramps 

in this chapter. I do not pretend to know all of them. 
Far from it ! And some of those that I know are too 
vile for description ; but the various kinds that I can 
describe, I have chosen those which are the most 


Low life as I know it in America is composed of 
three distinct classes, and they are called, in outcasts' 
slang, the '' Kids," the '' Natives," and the '' Old Bucks." 
The Kids, as their name suggests, are boys and girls, 
the Natives are the middle-aged outcasts, and the Old 
Bucks are the superannuated. Each of these classes 
has clubs corresponding in character and purpose to 
the age of the members. 

The clubs of the Kids are composed mainly of mis- 
chievous children and instinctively criminal children. 
As a rule, they are organized by boys alone, but I 
have known girls also to take part in their proceed- 
ings. The lads are usually between ten and fifteen 
years old. Sometimes they live at home with their 
parents, if they have any, and sometimes in lodging- 
houses. They get their living, such as it is, by rag- 
picking, selling newspapers, blacking boots, and doing 
odd errands fitted to their strength. None of them, 
not even the criminally inclined, are able to steal 
enough to support themselves. 

To illustrate, I shall take two clubs which I knew, 
one in Chicago, and one in Cincinnati. The Chicago 
club belonged exclusively to a set of lads on the North 
Side who called themselves the ^'Wildcats." The 
most of them were homeless little fellows who lived in 

Club Life among Outcasts 69 

that district as newsboys and boot-blacks. They num- 
bered about twenty, and although they had no offi- 
cially elected leader, a little fellow called Fraxy was 
nevertheless a recognized "president," and was sup- 
posed to know more about the city and certain tricks 
than the rest, and I think it was he who started the 
club. He was an attractive lad, capable of exercising 
considerable influence over his companions, and I can 
easily understand how he persuaded them to form 
the club. For personality counts for as much in low 
life as it does in '^high life," and little Fraxy had 
a remarkably magnetic one. He drew boys to him 
wherever he went, and before going to Chicago had 
organized a similar club in Toledo, Ohio. 

The club-house of the Wildcats was a little cave 
which they had dug in a cabbage-field on the outskirts 
of the city. Here they gathered nearly every night in 
the week to smoke cigarettes, read dime novels or 
hear them read, tell tales, crack jokes, and plan their 
mischievous raids on the neighboring districts. The 
cave contained a brickwork stove, some benches, some 
old pots and cans, one or two obscene pictures, and 
an old shoe-box, in which were stored from time to 
time various things to eat. 

The youngest boy was ten and the oldest fourteen, 
and as I remember them they were not especially bad 
boys. I have often sat with them and listened to their 
stories and jokes, and although they could swear, and 
a few could drink like drunkards, the most of them 
had hearts still kind. But they were intensely mis- 
chievous. The more nuisances they could commit the 
happier they were ; and the odd part of it all was that 

yo Tramping with Tramps 

their misdemeanors never brought them the slightest 
profit, and were remarkable for nothing but their 
wantonness. I remember particular^ one night when 
they stoned an old church simply because Fraxy had 
suggested it as sport. They left their cave about nine 
o'clock and went to a stone-pile near at hand, where 
they filled their pockets full of rocks. Then they 
started off pell-mell for the church, the windows of 
which they '' peppered 'n' salted " till they looked like 
" 'skeeter-nettin's," as Fraxy said. The moment they 
had finished they scampered into town and brought 
up at various lodging-houses. 

They never thieved or begged while I knew them, 
and not one of them had what could be called a crim- 
inal habit. They were simply full of boyishness, and 
having no homes, no parents, no friends, no refined 
instincts, it is no wonder that they worked off their 
animal spirits in pranks of this sort. Sometimes they 
used to take their girl friends out to the cave, too, 
and enlist them for a while in the same mischievous 
work that I have described ; but they always treated 
them kindly, and spoke of them as their '^ dear little 
kidsy-widsies." The girls helped to make the cave 
more homelike, and the lads appreciated every decora- 
tion and knickknack given them. 

Every city has clubs like this. They are a natural 
consequence of slum life, and to better them it is first 
necessary to better the slums themselves. Sunday- 
school lessons will not accomplish this ; reading-rooms 
will not accomplish it ; gymnasiums will not accom- 
plish it ; and nothing that I know of will accomplish 
it except personal contact with some man or boy who 

Club Life among Outcasts 71 

is willing to live among them and show them, as he 
alone can, a better life. There are many young men 
in the world who have remarkable ability, I believe, 
for just such work, if they would only go into it. By 
this I do not necessarily mean joining some organiza- 
tion or " settlement " ; I mean that the would-be helper 
shall live his own individual life among these people, 
learn to understand their whims and passions, and try 
to be of use to them as a personal friend. If he is es- 
pecially adapted to dealing with boys, he has only to 
take up his residence in any slum in any city, and 
he will find plenty to do. But whatever he does, he 
must not let them think that he is among them as a 


The club in Cincinnati was of a different kind. It 
is true that it consisted of young boys, and that some 
of them were boot-blacks and newsboys, but in other 
respects they were different. Their club name was 
the ^' Sneakers," and their hang-out was an old deserted 
house-boat, which lay stranded on the river-bank 
about a mile or so out of town. Some of them had 
homes, but the majority lived in lodging-houses or on 
the boat. When I first knew them they had been or- 
ganized about three months, and a few of them had al- 
ready been caught and sent to the reform school. Their 
business was stealing, pure and simple. Old metals were 
the things they looked for chiefly, because they were the 
handiest to get at. They had had no training in pick- 
ing pockets or '^ sly work" of any particular sort, but 
they did know some untenanted houses, and these they 

72 Tramping with Tramps 

entered and cut away the lead pipes to sell to dealers 
in such wares. Sometimes they also broke into 
engine-houses, and, if possible, unscrewed the brass- 
work on the engines, and I have even known them to 
take the wheels off wagons to get the tires. Their 
boat was their storehouse until the excitement over 
the theft had subsided, and then they persuaded some 
tramp or town ^' tough" to dispose of their goods. 
They never made very much profit, but enough to 
keep up interest in further crimes. 

I became acquainted with them through an old vaga- 
bond in Cincinnati who helped them now and then. 
He took me out to see them one night, and I had a 
good opportunity to learn what their club was made 
of. Most of the lads were over fourteen years of age, 
and two had already been twice in reform schools in 
different States. These two were the leaders, and 
mainly, I think, on account of certain tough airs which 
they '' put on." They talked criminal slang, and had 
an all- wise tone that was greatly liked by the other 
boys. They were all saturated with criminal ideas, 
and their faces gave evidence of crooked characteris- 
tics. How they came to club together is probably best 
explained by the older vagabond. I asked him how he 
accounted for such an organization, and he replied : 

''Got it in 'em, I guess. It's the only reason I 
know. Some kids always is that way. The divil 's 
born in 'em." 

I think that is true, and I still consider it the best 
explanation of the Sneakers. They were criminals by 
instinct, and such boys, just as mischievous boys, drift 
together and combine plots and schemes. I know of 


Club Life among Outcasts 75 

other boys of the same type who, instead of stealing, 
burn barns and outhouses. Young as they are, their 
moral obliquity is so definitely developed that they do 
such things passionately. They like to see the blaze, and 
yet when asked wherein the fun lies, they cannot tell. 
How to reform such boys is a question which, I 
think, has never been settled satisfactorily. For one, I 
do not believe that they can ever be helped by any 
clubs organized for their improvement. They have no 
interest in such things, and none can be awakened 
strong enough to kill their interest in criminal prac- 
tices. They are mentally maimed, and practically 
belong in an insane asylum. In saying this I do not 
wish to be understood as paying tribute to the '' fad " 
of some philanthropic circles, which regard the crimi- 
nal as either diseased or delinquent— as born lacking 
in mental and moral aptitudes, or perverted through 
no fault of his own. Without any attempt to tone 
down the reproach of criminality, or to account for 
the facts by heredity or environment, it still remains 
true that in thousands of cases there is as direct evi- 
dence of insanity in a boy's crimes and misdemeanors 
as in a man's, and I firmly believe tliat a more scien- 
tific century will institute medical treatment of juve- 
nile crime, and found reform schools where the cure of 
insanity will be as much an object as moral instruc- 
tion and character-building. 


Club life among the Natives,— the older outcasts, 
—although in many respects quite different from that 
of the Kids, is in some ways strikingly similar. 

76 ' Tramping with Tramps 

There are, for instance, young rowdies and roughs 
whose main pleasures are mischief and petty misde- 
meanors, just as among the young boys in Chicago. 
But in place of breaking church windows and turning 
over horse-blocks, they join what are called ''scrap- 
pin' gangs," and spend most of their time in fighting 
hostile clubs of the same order. They are not clever 
enough as yet to become successful criminals ; they 
are too brutal and impolite to do profitable begging, 
and as rowdyism is about the only thing they can take 
part in, their associations become pugilistic clubs. 

How these originated is an open question even 
among the rowdies themselves. My own explanation 
of their origin is this : Every community, if it is at all 
complex and varied, has different sets of outcasts and 
ne'er-do-wells, just as it has varieties of respectable 
people. In time these different sets appropriate, often 
quite accidentally, territories of their own. One set, 
for example, will live mainly on the east side of a city, 
and another set on the west side. After some resi- 
dence in their distinct quarters, local prejudices and 
habits are formed, and, what is more to the point, a 
local patriotism grows. The east-sider thinks his 
hang-outs and dives are the best, and the west-sider 
thinks the same of his. Out of this conceit there 
comes invariably a class hatred, which grows, and 
finally develops into the ''scrappin' gangs," the pur- 
pose of which is to defend the pride of each separate 
district. In New York I know of over half a dozen 
of these pugnacious organizations, and they fight for 
as many different territories. I have seen in one 
club young and old of both sexes joined together to 

Club Life among Outcasts 77 

defend their "kentry," as they called the street or 
series of .streets in which they lived. The majority of 
the real fighters, however, are powerful fellows be- 
tween the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. Some- 
times they live at home, and a few pretend to do 
some work, but most of them are loafers, who spend 
their time in drinking, gambling, and petty thieving. 
They usually sleep in old tenements and cheap lodging- 
houses, and in the daytime they are either in the streets 
or at some dive supported mainly by their patronage. 

I knew such a place in the city of New York, on the 
East Side, and not far from the Brooklyn Bridge. It 
was kept by an Irishman, and he had no customers 
other than those belonging to a ^'scrappin' gang" called 
the ''Rappers." There were two rooms— one front- 
ing on the street, and used as a bar-room; the 
other, in the rear, was the gambling- and " practisin' "- 
room. Here they came every night, played cards, 
drank stale beer, and exercised themselves in fisti- 
cuffing and "scrappin'." I visited them one night, 
and saw some of their movements, as they called the 
various triangles and circles which they formed as 
strategic guards when attacking the hostile gangs of 
the West Side. One of them they nicknamed the '' V 
gag," and prided themselves on its efficiency. It was 
simply a triangle which they formed to charge the 
better into the ranks of their enemies, and it reminded 
me strongly of football tactics. 

That same night they were to scuffle with a West- 
Side gang called the '■ Ducks," as one of their members 
had been insulted by one of the Duck gang. Battle 
was to be joined in a certain alley not far from Eighth 

78 Tramping with Tramps 

Avenue, and they started out, their pockets full of 
stones, in companies of two and three, to meet later in 
the alley. I accompanied the leader, a fellow called the 
" slugger," and reached the alley about eleven o'clock. 
He wanted me to give my assistance, but I told him 
that I could play war correspondent much better, and 
so was excused from action. And it was action indeed. 
They had hardly reached the battle-ground before the 
Ducks were upon them, and rocks flew and fists punched 
in a most terrific manner. Noses bled, coats were 
torn, hats were lost, and black eyes became the fash- 
ion. This went on for about fifteen minutes, and the 
battle was over. The Rappers were defeated fairly 
and squarely, but, as the slugger said, when we were 
all at the hang-out again, " we m ought 'a' licked 'em 
ef we 'd 'a' had 'em over here." 

Such is the " scrappin' gang." Every large city sup- 
ports one or two, and London has a score of them. 
They make some of its districts uninhabitable for re- 
spectable persons, and woe to the man who tries to 
interfere with them. As their members die or grow 
old, younger fellows come forward, often enough out 
of the very boys' clubs I have described, and take the 
place of the departed heroes. This is what rowdies 
call life. 

Like the famous Sttidenten- Corps in Germany, they 
need some sort of rough excitement, and the bloodier 
it is the happier they are. They have so much heart 
in them that no ordinary exercise relieves it, and they 
institute these foolish fighting clubs. It is possible 
that some sweet-natured philanthropist might go 
among them and accomplish wonders. In London 

Club Life among Outcasts 79 

the Salvation Army has done some splendid work 
with these same rowdies, and I know personally sev- 
eral who are to-day respectable working-men. But as 
for organizing polite clubs among them on any large 
scale, I think it impossible. 

Among the other Natives, club life, as a rule, cen- 
ters around the saloon, where they gather to ex- 
change news bulletins and meet their cronies. There 
are varieties of these saloons, corresponding to the 
varieties of outcasts, and in Chicago there are over 
twenty, each one of which is supported by a different 
clique and species; but these are not exactly clubs. 
The saloons are meeting-places more than anything 
else, or a sort of post-office. In the main they are 
very much like any other saloon, except that their 
clientele comes principally from the outcasts' world; 
and about all the life they afford is a boisterous 
joviality, which seldom takes definite shape. It is 
proper to say right here that criminal outcasts, as a 
rule, never form clubs so marked in individuality as 
the "scrappin' gang." The thief, the burglar, the 
pickpocket, and other '^professionals," although gre- 
garious and friendly enough, do not organize simply 
for the sake of sociability. When they combine it is 
more for the sake of business than anything else, and 
whatever social life they seem to need is furnished 
them at the saloon or some private hang-out. This 
is also true to a great extent of all the Natives who 
have passed their thirtieth year. At that age they 

8o Tramping with Tramps 

are usually so sobered, and have seen so much of the 
world, that they cannot get much pleasure out of the 
clubs that the younger men enjoy. The ''scrappin^ 
gang" no more appeals to them as a pastime or a 
source of happiness than it does to an old rounder. 
They feel happier in simply sitting on a bench in a 
saloon and talking over old times or planning new ad- 
ventures. Whatever excitement remains for them in 
life is found mainly in carousals. Of these I have 
seen a goodly number, but I must confess that after 
all they are only too similar to carousals in high life, 
the only noticeable difference being their greater fre- 
quency. They occur just about four times as often 
as anywhere else, because the outcast, and especially 
the criminal, is intensely emotional ; he can never live 
very long without some kind of excitement, and the 
older he grows the more alluring become his drinking- 
bouts. When his opportunities in this direction are 
shut off by jail- walls, he improvises something else, 
which often takes organized form ; but it must be 
remembered that such organizations are purely make- 
shifts, and that the members would rather sit in some 
low concert-hall or saloon and have an old-time drink- 
ing-bout, if circumstances were only favorable. 


The most interesting of these impromptu clubs is 
the one called in the vernacular the '^Kangaroo 
Court." It is found almost entirely in county jails, in 
which petty offenders and persons awaiting trial are 
confined. During the day the prisoners are allowed 

Club Life among Outcasts 81 

the freedom of a large hall, and at night they lodge 
in cells, the locks of which are sometimes fastened 
and sometimes not. The hall contains tables, benches, 
daily papers, and, in some instances, stoves and kitchen 
utensils. The prisoners walk about, jump, and play 
various games. After a while these games become 
tiresome, and the "Kangaroo Court" is formed. It 
consists of all the prisoners, and the officers are elected 
by them. The positions they fill are the " judgeship," 
the " searchership," the •' spankership," and general 
" juryship." To illustrate the duties of these various 
officials, I shall give a personal experience in a county 
jail in New York State. It was m}^ first encounter with 
the " Kangaroo Court." 

I had been arrested for sleeping in an empty box- 
car. The watchman found me and lodged me in the 
station-house, where I spent a most gloomy night 
wondering what my punishment would be. Early in 
the morning I was brought before the '^ squire." He 
asked me what my name might be, and I replied that 
" it might be Billy Rice." 

"What are you doing around here, Billy?" he 
queried further. 

" Looking for work, your Honor." 

" Thirty days," he thundered at me, and I was led 
away to the jail proper. 

I had three companions at the time, and after we 
had passed the sheriff and his clerk, w^ho had noted 
down all the facts, imaginary and otherwise, that we 
had cared to give him about our family histories, we 
were ushered pell-mell into the large hall. Surrounded 
in a twinkling by the other prisoners, we were asked 

82 Tramping with Tramps 

to explain our general principles and misdemeanors. 
This over, and a few salutations exchanged, a tall and 
lanky rogue cried out in a loud voice : 

'^ The Kangru will now k'lect." 

There were about twenty present, and they soon 
planted themselves about us in a most solemn man- 
ner. Some rested on their haunches, others lounged 
against the walls, and still others sat quietly on the 
flagstones. As soon as entire quiet had been reached, 
the tall fellow, who, by the way, was the judge, in- 
structed a half-grown companion, whom he nick- 
named the ^^ searcher," to bring his charges against 
the newcomers. He approached us solemnly and in 
a most conventional manner, and said : 

'^ Priz'ners, you is charged with havin' boodle in 
yer pockets. Wha' does you plead— guilty or not 

I was the first in line, and pleaded not guilty. 

'^ Are you willin' to be searched ? " asked the judge. 

^' I am, your Honor," I replied. 

Then the searcher inspected all my pockets, the 
lining of my coat, the leather band inside my hat, my 
shoes and socks, and finding nothing in the shape of 
money, declared that I was guiltless. 

^' You are discharged," said the judge, and the jury- 
men ratified the decision with a grunt. 

A young fellow, a vagrant by profession, was the 
next case. He pleaded not guilty, and allowed him- 
self to be searched. But unfortunately he had for- 
gotten a solitary cent which was in his vest pocket. 
It was quickly confiscated, and he was remanded for 
trial on the charge of contempt of the "Kangru." 

Club Life among Outcasts 83 

The next victim pleaded guilty to the possession of 
thirty-six cents, and was relieved of half. The last 
man, the guiltiest of all, although he pleaded inno- 
cence, was found out, and his three dollars were taken 
away from him instanter ; he, too, was charged with 
contempt of court. His case came up soon after the 
preliminaries were over, and he was sentenced by the 
judge to walk the length of the corridor one hundred 
and three times each day of his confinement, besides 
washing all the dishes used at dinner for a week. 

After all the trials were over, the confiscated money 
was handed to the genuine turnkey, with instructions 
that it be invested in tobacco. Later in the day the 
tobacco was brought into the jail and equally divided 
among all the prisoners. 

The next day I, with the other late arrivals, was 
initiated as a member of the ^' Kangaroo Court." It 
was a very simple proceeding. I had to promise that 
I would always do my share of the necessary cleaning 
and washing, and also be honest and fair in judging 
the cases which might come up for trial. 

Since then I have had opportunities of studying 
other " Kangaroo Courts," which have all been very 
much like the one I have described. They are both 
socialistic and autocratic, and at times they are very 
funny. But wherever they are they command the 
respect of jail-birds, and if a prisoner insults the court 
he is punished very severely. Moreover, it avails him 
nothing to complain to the authorities. He has too 
many against him, and the best thing he can do is to 
become one of them as soon as possible. 

Other clubs of this same impromptu character are 

84 Tramping with Tramps 

simple makeshifts, which last sometimes a week, and 
sometimes but a day, if a more substantial amusement 
can be found to take their place. One, of which I was 
a member, existed for six hours only. It was organ- 
ized to pass the time until a train came along to carry 
the men into a neighboring city. They selected a king 
and some princes, and called the club the '^ Royal 
Flush." Every half -hour a new king was chosen, in 
order to give as many members as possible the privi- 
leges which these offices carried with them. They 
were not especially valuable, but nevertheless novel 
enough to be entertaining. The king, for instance, 
had the right to order any one to fill his pipe or bring 
him a drink of water, while the princes were permitted 
to call the commoners all sorts of names as long as 
their official dignity lasted. So far as I know, they 
have never met since that afternoon camp on the 
prairies of Nebraska; and if they are comfortably 
seated in some favorite saloon, I can safely say that 
not one of them would care to exchange places with 
any half -hour king. 

A little experience I had some time ago in New York 
will show how well posted the Natives are regarding 
these favorite saloons. I was calling on an old friend 
at a saloon in Third Avenue at the time. After I had 
told him of my plan to visit certain Western cities, 
and had mentioned some of them, he said : 

'' Well, you wan' ter drop in at the Half in State 
Street when you strike Chi [Chicago] ; 'n' doan' forget 
Red's place in Denver, 'n' Dutch Mary's in Omaha. 
They '11 treat you square. Jes left Mary's place 'bout a 
week ago, 'n' never had a better time. Happy all the 

Club Life among Outcasts 85 

while, 'n' one day nearly tasted meself, felt so good. 
There 's nothin' like knowin' such places, you know. 
'F you get into a strange town, takes you a ter'ble while 
to find yer fun 'less yer posted. But you '11 be all 
right at Red's 'n' Mary's, dead sure." 

So the stranger is helped along in low life, and the 
Natives take just as much pride in passing him on 
to other friends and other clubs as does the high-life 
club-man. It gives them a feeling of importance, 
which is one of their main gratifications. 


Of the Old Bucks,— the superannuated outcasts,— 
and their club life, there is very little to say. Walk 
into any low dive in any city where they congregate, 
and you can see the whole affair. They sit there on the 
benches in tattered clothes, and rest their chins on 
crooked sticks or in their hands, and glare at one 
another with bloodshot eyes. Between drinks they 
discuss old times, old pals, old winnings, and then 
wonder what the new times amount to. And now and 
then, when in the mood, they throw a little crude 
thought on politics into the air. I have heard them 
discuss home rule, free trade, the Eastern question, 
and at the same time crack a joke on a hungry mos- 
quito. A bit of wit, nasty or otherwise, will double 
them up in an instant, and then they cough and 
scramble to get their equilibrium again. 

Late at night, when they can sit no longer on the 
whittled benches, and the bartender orders them 
home, they crawl away to musty lodging-houses and 

86 Tramping with Tramps 

lie down in miserable bunks. The next morning they 
are on hand again at the same saloon, with the same 
old jokes and the same old laughs. They keep track 
of their younger pals if they can, and do their best 
to hold together their close relationships, and as one 
of their number tumbles down and dies, they remem- 
ber his good points, and call for another beer. The 
Natives help them along now and then, and even 
the boys give them a dime on special occasions. But 
as they never need very much, and as low life is often 
the only one they know, they find it not very difficult 
to pick their way on to the end. If you pity them 
they are likely to laugh at you, and I have even known 
them to ask a city missionary if he would not take a 
drink with them. 

To think of enticing such men into decent clubs is 
absurd ; the only respectable place they ever enter is 
a reading-room— and then not to read. No, indeed! 
Watch them in Cooper Union. Half the time their 
newspapers are upside down and they are dozing. 
One eye is always on the alert, and the minute they 
think you are watching they grip the newspaper 
afresh, fairly pawing the print with their greasy fingers 
in their eagerness to carry out the r61e they have 
assumed. One day, in such a place, I scraped ac- 
quaintance with one of them, and, as if to show that 
it was the literary attraction which brought him 
there, he suddenly asked me in a most confidential 
tone what I thought of Tennyson. Of course I 
thought a good deal of him, and said so, but I had 
hardly finished before the old fellow querulously 
remarked : 


Club Life among Outcasts 89 

" Don' cher think the best thing he ever did was that 
air ' Charge of the Seventeen Hundred ' ? " 


I HAVE already said that, so far as the older outcasts 
are concerned, there is but little chance of helping 
them by respectable clubs; they are too fixed in 
their ways, and the best method of handling them is 
to destroy their own clubs and punish the members. 
The '^ scrappin' gang," for example, should be treated 
with severe law, whenever and wherever it shows its 
bloody hand, and if such a course were adopted and 
followed it would accomplish more good than any 
other conceivable method. The same treatment must 
be applied to the associations of other Natives, for the 
more widely they are separated and thus prevented 
from concourse the better will it be. It is their gre- 
gariousness which makes it so difficult to treat with 
them successfully, and until they can be dealt with 
separately, man for man, and in a prison-cell if neces- 
sary, not much can be accomplished. The evils in low 
life are contagious, and to be treated scientifically they 
must be quarantined and prevented from spreading. 
Break up its gangs. Begin at their beginnings. 
For let two outcasts have even but a little influence 
over a weak human being, and there are three out- 
casts; give them a few more similar chances, and 
there will be a gang. 

I would not have any word of mine lessen the grow- 
ing interest in man's fellow-man, or discourage by so 
much as a pen-stroke the brotherly influences on the 

go Tramping with Tramps 

*' fallen brother " which are embodied in neighborhood 
guilds and college settlements of the present, but I 
am deeply convinced that there is a work these organi- 
zations cannot, must not, do. That work must be 
done by law and government. Vice must be punished, 
and the vicious sequestrated. Public spirit and citizen- 
ship duly appreciated and exercised must precede phi- 
lanthropy in the slums. Government, municipal and 
State, must be a John the Baptist, preparing the way 
and making the paths straight, ere the embodied love 
of man and love of God can walk safely and effectively 



SOME years ago I was sitting, one spring after- 
noon, on a railroad-tie on "The Dope"^ when 
New York Barcas appeared on the scene. There was 
nothing very peculiar about Barcas, except his map of 
the United States. Not that he ever set up to be a 
topographer, or aspired to any rivalry with Johnston, 
Kiepert, or Zell ; but, like the ancients, Barcas had his 
known and his unknown world, and, like them again, 
he described the land he knew just as if it was all the 
world there was. I came to know Barcas's map in this 

We were both talking about certain tramp districts 
in the community, and I noticed that his idea of 
north, south, east, and west was somewhat different 
from mine. So, in order that our conversation might 
not be troubled with petty arguments on geographical 
boundaries, I asked him to map out the country for 
me according to his "best light" ; and this is how he 
did it. He took out his pencil and drew a line from 

1 The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad— called ^'The Dope " be- 
cause it is so greasy. 


92 Tramping with Tramps 

the Canadian frontier through Chicago to St. Louis, 
and another line from the Atlantic through Washing- 
ton to the same point, and called aU the territory- 
north of the last-named boundary the East. He 
drew still another line from St. Louis to the Pacific 
coast, and called all the States north of this and west 
of Chicago the West. His North comprised all Can- 
ada, but he considered the province of Quebec the 
most prominent tramp territory in this district. His 
South was all that remained below his equatorial line, 
but the eastern part of it he nicknamed Niggerland, 
while the western part, bordering on the Pacific Ocean, 
he called the Coast. 

This was the extent of Bareas's geography when I 
knew him. He seemed to realize that there are other 
countries in the world besides this one which he and 
his confreres consider laid out for their own particular 
benefit; nevertheless, in daily life and conversation 
the other divisions of the world are so conscientiously 
ignored for all practical purposes that North America 
may safely be said to comprise the American tramp's 
general idea of the earth. He knows well enough that 
he has brothers in other lands, but he considers them 
so unlucky in being left to ply their trade outside of 
his own peculiar paradise that he feels it necessary 
to ignore them. For in spite of the constitutional 
Bohemianism of his nature, he is still far from being 
a cosmopolitan. If he has suffering brethren in other 
communities, his heart does not throb for their sor- 
row. No, indeed! He simply says: ^'Why don't 
they get out o' those blasted holes and come over 
here? This is the only country for the tramp." 

The American Tramp, Geographically 93 

There is a great deal of truth in this, and my purpose 
in this chapter is to give an account of tramp traits, 
successes, and failures in this land of freedom. I 
shall take up the various districts as Barcas indi- 
cated them, not, however, because his points of the 
compass are at all typical or representative. No; 
Barcas's map is not for general circulation, and for 
this very good reason it would probably be difficult 
to find ten vagrants whose views would coincide with 
his or with those of any other ten idlers. This is a ^ 
peculiarity of the vagabond, and it must be excused, for 
it has its raison d'etre. 


This district (Canada) hardly belongs to the real 
American vagabondage. It is true that the hobo 
crosses the frontier now and then, and makes a short 
journey into Quebec, but it can scarcely be called a 
trip on business. It is undertaken more for the sake 
of travel, and a desire to see " them fellers up in / 
Canady," and the scenery too, if the traveler is a lover 
of nature, as many hoboes are. As a rule, Canada is 
left pretty much in the hands of the local vagabonds, 
who are called '' Frenchies." I have never thoroughly 
explored their territory, and, unfortunately, cannot 
write as definitely and comprehensively about their 
character as I would wish to do. However, the fol- 
lowing facts are true as far as they go. 

The main clan of Canadian tramps is composed of 
French-Canadians and Indians. I have never met a 
genuine tramp of this class who was born in France 

94 Tramping with Tramps 

proper, yet I can well believe that there are such. The 
language of these beggars is a jargon partly French and 
partly English, with a small hobo vocabulary added 
thereto. Only a very few American tramps can speak 
this queer lingo. I have met a gipsy now and then 
who at least understood it, and I account for this on 
the ground that a large number of the words resemble 
those in the gipsy dialect. PtmOj for instance, means 
bread in both languages. 

To be a successful beggar in Canada, one must be able 
to speak French, for Quebec is one of the main tramp 
districts, and the local population uses this language 
principally. The " Galway " (Catholic priest) is per- 
haps the best friend of the Frenchies ; at any rate, 
this has been my experience. He gives alms ten 
times where a peasant gives once, and when a vaga- 
bond can find a cloister or a convent, he is almost sure 
to be well taken care of. The peasants, it must be 
remembered, are about all the Frenchies have after 
the Galway. To show how wise they are in doling 
out their charity, it is only necessary to say that the 
usual Frenchy is content when he gets his three meals 
a day without working. And as for myself, I can say 
that I have gone hungry for over thirty hours at a 
stretch in Canada, and this, too, although I was care- 
ful to visit every house that I passed. But the Cana- 
dian tramp is evidently satisfied with small rewards, 
else he could not live long in his chosen district. As 
I know him, he is a slow-going fellow, fond of peace 
and quiet, and seldom desirous of those wild ^'slop- 
ping-ups " in American trampdom for which so much 
money is needed. If he can only have some outcast 

The American Tramp, Geographically 95 

woman, or " sister/' as he calls her, to accompany him 
on his travels, and to make homelike and comfort- 
able the little tent which he often carries ; and if he 
can have his daily jjdiio and his usual supply of doliun 
(tobacco), he is a comparatively happy fellow. He 
reminds me more of the European tramp in general 
character than any other human parasite I can think 
of ; and I shall be exceedingly sorry if he ever gets 
a foothold in the United States, because he is a va- 
grant down to the core, and this can hardly be said as 
yet of most American tramps. It is almost impossible 
to touch his emotions, and he usually looks upon the 
world as his enemy. He can hardly be called a vic- 
tim of liquor, but rather the victim of an ill-matched 
parentage. He is often on the mercy of the world 
before he knows how he came into it, and it is not 
wonderful that he should drift into a class where no 
questions are asked, and where even the murderer is 
received with some distinction. To reform such a 
man requires that the social polity itself be permeated 
by a higher order of ethics than governs it at present 
—a truth quite as applicable in certain districts of the 
United States as elsewhere. 


The tramps of this part of the country represent 
the main intelligence as well as " respectability " of the 
brotherhood. They also comprise the most success- 
ful criminal element. But of course the vocation of 
the great majority is simply begging. To tell exactly 
where they thrive, and to particularize carefully, 

96 Tramping with Tramps 

would take a book by itself, and the most I can do is 
to give a very general idea of the district. 

New England, as a whole, is at present poor begging 
territory for those vagabonds who are not clever and 
not able to dress fairly weU. Boston is the beggar's 
metropolis as well as the New England millionaire's, 
and, untn a few years ago. Bughouse Mary's Tramp 
Home was as much a Boston institution as Tremont 
Temple or the Common. One could find there tramps 
of all grades of intelligence, cleanliness, and manners. 
And even in the streets I have often been able to 
pick out the ''begging brothers'' by the score from 
the general crowd. But it must not be forgotten that 
a city offers privileges to beggars which the rural dis- 
tricts deny, and probably, if the police authorities 
were more diligent than they are now, even Boston 
could be rid of the great majority of its worst loafers. 
I must admit, however, that it will be difficult ever to 
banish the entire tramp tribe, for some of them are 
exceedingly clever, and when decently clad can play 
the role of almost any member of society. For in- 
stance, I tramped through Connecticut and Rhode 
Island once with a '' fawny man." ^ Both of us were 
respectably dressed, and, according to my companion's 
suggestion, we posed as strolling students, and always 
offered to pay for our meals and lodging ; but the offer 
was never accepted. Why? Because the farmers 
'' considered themselves repaid by the interesting ac- 
counts of our travels, and talks about politics," etc. 
My friend was very sharp and keen, and carried on a 
successful trade in spurious jewelry with some of the 
1 A peddler of bogus jewelry. 

The American Tramp, Geographically 97 

foolish country boys, when he was not discussing the 
probabilities of the presidential election. I am sure 
that I could travel through New England to-day, if 
respectably clad, and be gratuitously entertained 
wherever I should go ; and simply because the credu- 
lity of -the charitable is so favorable to " traveling 

One of the main reasons why Massachusetts is such 
poor territory for the usual class of vagrants is its 
jail system. In many of these jails the order and 
discipline are superb, and work is required of the 
prisoners— and work is the last thing a real tramp 
ever means to undertake. I cannot help looking for- 
ward to very gratifying results to trampdom from the 
influence of the present Massachusetts jail System. 
For anything which brings the roving beggar into con- 
tact with sobriety and labor is bound to have a bene- 
ficial effect. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, 
Ohio, and Michigan are all fairly good tramp States, 
and all swarm with allowed beggars. The most re- 
markable feature of vagrancy in New York State is 
that wonderful town known among vagrants as the 
'^ City " and also as '^ York." This is the most notorious 
tramp-nest in the United States. I have walked along 
the Bowery of an afternoon, and counted scores of 
men who never soil their hands with labor, and beg 
on an average a dollar a day. Even the policemen of 
this city are often friends of beggars, and I have sel- 
dom met a hobo who was very angry with a New 
York " bull." As a rule, the police officer, when find- 
ing tramps drunk on door-steps or begging, says in a 
coarse and brutal voice, '^ Get out ! " and possibly gives 

98 Tramping with Tramps 

tliem a rap with his club, but it is altogether too seldom 
that the beggar is arrested. One rather odd phase of 
tramp life in New York cit}^ is the shifting boundary- 
line that marks the charity of the town. Several 
years ago Eighty-ninth Street was about as far up- 
town as one could secure fair rewards for diligent 
begging. Now one can see tramps, on a winter 
night especially, scattered all along One Hundred and 
Twenty-fifth Street, not because this street is the only 
'^ good one," but because it is so '' good " that better 
profits are realized than in those farther down. And 
for clothes, I have always found Harlem more profit- 
able than other parts of the city. New York city is 
also one of the best places in the country for " snaring 
a kid"— persuading some youngster to accompany an 
older beggar on the road. There are so many raga- 
mufiins lying around loose and unprotected in the 
more disreputable quarters of the town that it is only 
necessary to tell them a few '' ghost-stories" (fancy tales 
of tramp life) to make them follow the story-teller as 
unresistingly as the boys of Hamelin marched after 
the Pied Piper. Almost every third boy that one 
meets in American vagabondage hails from "York." 
This accounts for the fact that several tramps of New 
York birth have the same name, for even the beggar's 
ingenuity is not capable of always hitting upon a 
unique cognomen. I have met fully a dozen roadsters 
having the name of " Yorkey," "New York Bob," 
" New York Whitey," " New York Slim," etc., which 
makes it not only the fashion but a necessity, when 
hearing a city tramp's name, to ask which Whitey, 
which Yorkey, or which Bob it is, and a personal de- 

The American Tramp, Geographically 99 

scription is usually necessary before the fellow can be 

Over in New Jersey, I think, there are more tramps 
to the square mile than in any other State, excepting 
Pennsylvania. The neighborhood around Newark is 
simply infested with beggars, who meet there on their 
way into and out of New York city. They often have 
a hang-out on the outskirts of the town, where they 
camp quite unmolested, unless they get drunk and 
draw their razors, which is more than common with 
Eastern tramps. It is surprising, too, how well they 
are fed, when one remembers that they have "bat- 
tered" in this community for years. It is in Penn- 
sylvania, however, that the tramp is best fed, while I 
still maintain that he gets more money in New York 
city. I do not know of a town or \allage in the Key- 
stone State where a decently clad roadster cannot get 
all that he cares to eat without doing a stroke of work 
in payment. The jails are also a great boon to the 
fraternity. In the majority of them there is no work 
to do, while some furnish tobacco and the daily papers. 
Consequently, in winter, one can see tramps sitting 
comfortably on benches drawn close to the fire, and 
reading their morning paper, and smoking their after- 
breakfast pipe, as complacently and calmly as the mer- 
chant in his counting-room. Here they find refuge 
from the storms of winter, and make themselves 
entirely at home. 

Ohio and Indiana, although fairly friendly to 
tramps, are noted for certain "horstile" features. 
The main one of these is the well-known "timber- 
lesson"— clubbing at the hands of the inhabitants of 

loo Tramping with Tramps 

certain towns. I experienced this muscular instruc- 
tion at one unfortunate time in my life, and I must 
say that it is one of the best remedies for vagabondage 
that exist. But it is very crude and often cruel. In 
company with two other tramps, I was made to run a 
gantlet extending from one end of the town of Ox- 
ford, Indiana, to the other. The boys and men who 
were " timbering " us threw rocks and clubbed us most 
diligently. I came out of the scrape with a rather 
sore back, and should probably have suffered more 
had I not been able to run with rather more than the 
usual speed. One of my fellow-sufferers, I heard, was 
in a hospital for some time. My other companion 
had his eye gouged terribly, and I fancy that he will 
never visit that town again. Apart from the " tim- 
ber " custom, which, I understand, is now practised in 
other communities also these two States are good 
begging districts. There are plenty of tramps within 
their boundaries, and when "the eagles are gathered 
together," the carcass to be preyed upon is not far 

The other States of the East have so much in com- 
mon with those already described that little need be 
said of them. Chicago, however, deserves a para- 
graph. This city, although troubled with hundreds 
of tramps, and noted for its generosity, is nevertheless 
a terror to evil-doers in this, that its policemen handle 
beggars according to law whenever they can catch 
them. Instead of the tiresomely reiterated " Get 
out ! " and the brutal club-swinging in New York, 
one gets accustomed in Chicago to "thirty days in 
the Bridewell." I know this to be true, for I have 


The American Tramp, Geographically 103 

been in Chicago as a tramp for days at a time, and 
have investigated every phase of tramp life in the 
city. Of course there are thousands of cases where 
the beggar is not caught, but I maintain that when he 
is found he is given a lesson almost as valuable as the 
one over in Indiana. The cities in the East which the 
vagabond considers his own are New York (" York "), 
Philadelphia (''Phillie"), Buffalo, Boston, Baltimore, 
Chicago (here he is very often deceived), Detroit (an- 
other place where he is deceived), and Cincinnati. 

Just a word about the Eastern tramp himself. His 
language is a slang as nearly English as possible. 
Some words, however, would not be understood any- 
where outside of the clan. His personal traits are 
great conceit, cleverness, and a viciousness which, 
although corresponding in the main to the same in 
other parts of the country, is nevertheless a little 
more refined, if I may use that word, than elsewhere. 
The number of his class it is difficult to determine 
definitely, but I believe that he and his companions 
are many thousands strong. His earnings, so far as 
my experience justifies me in judging, range from 
fifty cents to over two dollars a day, besides food, 
provided he begs steadily. I know from personal 
observation that an intelligent beggar can average 
the above amount in cities, and sometimes in smaller 


Vagabondage in this part of the country is com- 
posed principally of '^blanket-stiffs," '^ ex-prushuns," 
" gay-cats," and a small number of recognized tramps 

104 Tramping with Tramps 

who, however, belong to none of the foregoing classes, 
and are known simply as '' Westerners." The blanket- 
stiffs are men (or sometimes women) who walk, or 
"drill," as they say, from Salt Lake City to San 
Francisco about twice a year, begging their way from 
ranch to ranch, and always carrying their blankets 
with them. The ex-prushuns are young fellows who 
have served their apprenticeship as kids in the East, 
and are in the West '^ looking for revenge," i. e., seek- 
ing some kid whom they can press into their service 
and compel to beg for them. The gay-cats are men 
who will work for '^ very good money," and are usually 
in the West in the autumn to take advantage of the 
high wages offered to laborers during the harvest 
season. The Westerners have no unique position, and 
resemble the Easterner, except that they as well as 
the majority of other Western rovers drink alcohol, 
diluted in a little water, in preference to other liquors. 
On this account, and also because Western tramps 
very often look down upon Eastern roadsters as 
'Henderfeet," there is not that brotherly feeling be- 
tween the East and the West in vagrancy that one 
might expect. The Easterners think the Western 
brethren too rough and wild, while the latter think 
the former too tame. However, there is a continual 
intercourse kept up by the passing of Westerners to 
the East, and vice versa, and when neither party is 
intoxicated the quarrel seldom assumes very danger- 
ous proportions. 

Of the States in the Western district, I think that 
Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Wash- 
ington, and a part of California are the best for tramps. 

The American Tramp, Geographically 105 

Iowa is usually liked very much by roadsters, but its 
temperance principles used to be thoroughly hated, as 
were also those of Kansas. It is needless to say, how- 
ever, that in the river towns a tramp could usually have 
all the liquor he could stand. I was in Burlington once 
when there was a Grand Army celebration, which the 
tramps were attending (!) in full force ; and the amount 
of ^' booze" that flowed was something astounding for 
a " dry " State. Nearly every vagrant that I met had 
a bottle, and when I asked where it came from, I was 
directed to an open saloon ! A great fad in Nebraska, 
Iowa, and Kansas is to beg from the hotels. I have 
received hospitality in these places when I could get 
absolutely nothing at the private houses. This is 
especially true when the cook is a negro. He will 
almost always give a beggar a "set-down" (square 
meal), and sometimes he will include a bundle of food 
" for the journey." Still another fad when I knew the 
country was to call at the penitentiaries for clothes: 
I saw a man go into the Fort Madison " pen " (Iowa) 
one day with clothes not only tattered and torn, but 
infested with vermin. When he returned, I hardly 
knew him, he was so well dressed. Stillwater Peni- 
tentiary in Minnesota also had a notoriety for benevo- 
lence of this sort, but I cannot affirm this by personal 
observation . 

Wisconsin, although not exactly unfriendly to 
tramps, is nevertheless a " poor " State, because it has 
no very large city and is peopled largely by New- 
En glanders. Milwaukee is perhaps the best place for 
a beggar. The Germans will give him all the beer he 
wants, and feed him well besides, for they are the most 

io6 Tramping with Tramps 

unwisely generous people in this country. Where they 
have a settlement, a tramp can thrive almost beyond 
description. For instance, in Milwaukee, as in other 
Wisconsin towns, he can batter for breakfast suc- 
cessfully from six o'clock until eleven o'clock in the 
morning, and is everywhere sure of a cup of coffee. 
I once attempted in Milwaukee to see just how many 
dinners I could get inside the ordinary dinner-time, 
and after an hour and a half I returned to the hang- 
out with three bundles of food, besides three dinners 
which had already been disposed of. I could have 
continued my dining indefinitely, had my capacity 

San Francisco and Denver are the main dependence 
of tramps in the West. If one meets a westward- 
bound beggar beyond the Mississippi, he may usually 
infer that the man is on his way to Denver ; and if he 
is found on the other side of that city, and still west- 
ward bound, his destination is almost sure to be 
" 'Frisco," or at least Salt Lake City, which is also a 
popular hang-out. Denver has a rather difficult task 
to perform, for the city is really a junction from which 
tramps start on their travels in various directions, and 
consequently the people have more than their share of 
beggars to feed. I have met in the city, at one time, as 
many as one hundred and fifty bona-fide tramps, and 
every one had been in the town for over a week. 
The people, however, do not seem to feel the burden 
of this riffraff addition to the population 5 at any rate, 
they befriend it most kindly. They seem especially 
willing to give money. I once knew a kid who 
averaged in Denver nearly three dollars a day for 

The American Tramp, Geographically 107 

almost a week, by standing in front of shops and 
*' battering " the ladies as they passed in and out. He 
was a handsome child, and this, of course, must be 
taken into consideration, for his success was phe- 

'' 'Frisco" is even better than Denver, furnishing 
districts in which tramps can thrive and remain for a 
longer time unmolested. There are more low lodging- 
houses, saloons, and dives 5 and there is also here a 
large native class whose character is not much higher 
than that of the tramp himself, so that he is lost 
among them— often to his own advantage. This 
difficulty of identification is a help to roadsters, for 
there is nothing that pleases and helps them so much 
as to be considered "town bums," the latter being 
allowed privileges which are denied to strangers. 

In the estimation of the tramp the West does not 
rank with the East. The railroads are not so '' good " ; 
there are fewer cities 5 even the towns are too far 
apart ; in some districts the people are too poor ; and 
taking the country as a whole, the inhabitants are by 
no means so generous. I doubt whether the average 
gains of Western beggars amount to more than twenty- 
five cents a day. In " 'Frisco " and Denver, as well as 
in a few other large towns, begging is of course much 
more remunerative, but in the rural parts the average 
wage of a beggar is even below twenty cents a day, 
besides food ; at least, this is the result of my observa- 
tion. In general the Western tramp is rough, often 
kind-hearted, wild and reckless; he always has his 
razor with him, and will "cut" whenever there is provo- 
cation. The blanket-stiff is perhaps the least violent 

io8 Tramping with Tramps 

of all ; Ms long walking-tours seem to quiet his passion 
somewhat, and overcome his naturally wild tendencies. 
The ex-prushun is exactly the opposite, and I know 
of no roadster so cruel and mean to the weak as this 
young fellow, who is, after all, only a graduated kid. 
This is not so surprising, however, when one recollects 
that for years he has been subject to the whims and 
passions of various '' jockers,'' or protectors, and natu- 
rally enough, when released from his bondage, he is 
only too likely to wreak his pent-up feelings on the 
nearest victim. After a year or two of Western life 
he either subsides and returns to the East, or becomes 
more intimately connected with the true criminal class, 
and attempts to do ^'crooked work.'' Several of the 
most notorious and successful thieves have been ex- 

Just how many tramps there are in the West it is 
even more difficult to decide than in the East, because 
they are scattered over such wide territory. Experi- 
ence makes me believe, however, that there are fully 
half as many voluntary idlers in this part of the coun- 
try as in the East. And the great majority of them, 
I fear, are even more irreclaimable than their com- 
rades in other communities. They laugh at law, sneer 
at morality, and give free rein to appetite. Because 
of this many of them never reach middle age. 


Tramp life here has its own peculiarities. There 
are white loafers known as ^'hoboes," which is the 
general technical term among white tramps every- 

The American Tramp, Geographically 109 

where, and there are the " sliinies/' who are negroes. 
The odd part of it all is that these two classes hardly 
know each other; not that they hate each other or 
have any color-line, but simply that they apparently 
cannot associate together with profit. The hobo seems 
to do better when traveling only with hoboes, and the 
shiny lives much more comfortably in his own clan. 
My explanation of this fact is this : both parties have 
learned by experience that alms are much more gener- 
ously given to a white man when alone than when in 
company with a negro. This, of course, does not 
apply anywhere but in the South, for a colored tramp 
is just as well treated in the East and West as a white 

My knowledge of the shinies is very meager, for I 
was compelled to travel as a hobo when studying 
vagrancy in the South, and I have never met a mem- 
ber of that class who knew very much about his negro 
confreres. From all that I can gather, however, I 
think that they resemble very closely the gay-cats, 
for they do work now and then, although their being 
on the road is usually quite voluntary, unless their 
natural laziness can be considered as a force impelling 
them into trampdom. Their dialect is as different 
from the usual tramp lingo as black from white, and 
I have never been able to master its orthography. 

As the South in the main is only skimmed over by 
most white tramps, and as a few cities represent the 
true strongholds of vagrancy, it is unnecessary to give 
any detailed account of this region. Besides, it is 
only in winter that many tramps, excepting, of course, 
the shinies, are found here, and consequently there is 

110 Tramping with Tramps 

not very nmch to describe, for they go into this part 
of the country principally to " rest up " and shun the 
cold weather prevalent in other districts. The chief 
destinations of wandering beggars in the South are 
New Orleans, St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, 
and Atlanta. Several towns in Texas are also popular 
" resting-places," but usually the tramps in Texas have 
begged their money in other States, and are there 
principally for " a great slopping-up," for which dis- 
sipation Texas furnishes much more suitable accom- 
modations than any other State in the Union. The 
usual time for Eastern and Western tramps to start 
South is in October. During this month large squads 
of vagabonds will be found traveling toward "Or- 
leans." I once was on an Illinois Central freight-train 
when seventy-three tramps were fellow-passengers, 
and nearly every one was bound for either Florida or 
Louisiana. These two States may almost be called 
the South so far as hoboes are concerned. New Or- 
leans is especially a tramp-nest, and ranks second to 
New York in hospitality, according to my experience. 
In the older part of the town one can find beggars of 
almost every nationality, and its low dives are often 
supported by the visiting knights of the road. Beg- 
ging, as they do, very fair sums of money, and being 
only too willing to spend it quickly, they afford these 
innkeepers of the baser sort very fair rewards for 
keeping up their miserable " hotels." A well-trained 
beggar can very often average a dollar a day in New 
Orleans if he begs diligently. But he must be careful 
not to be arrested, for the jails in the South are man- 
killing holes in many and many an instance. Even 

The American Tramp, Geographically 1 1 1 

in the East and West several of the county prisons are 
bad enough, but they cannot compare in filth to some 
of the miserable cells of the South. 

Jacksonville and St. Augustine are good hang- 
outs for tramps, and in the winter such visitors are 
very numerous. They make a very decent living off 
the transient tourists at these winter resorts. But 
success is so short and precarious there that many 
hoboes prefer New Orleans, on account of its steadier 
character, and seldom visit the other towns. Besides, 
to batter around the hotels in St. Augustine one should 
be respectably clad, and polite in manner and bearing, 
which, in most cases, involves far too much trouble. 

The most generous people in the South are the poor, 
but not the negro poor, who, according to my experi- 
ence, are by no means large-hearted. Take them in 
the East or West, and they are friendly enough, but 
on their native heath they are, as a rule, stingy. I 
have received much more hospitality from the ^' poor 
whites" than from any other people. The negroes, 
when I asked them for something to eat, would say : 
''Oh, go and ask the Missis. I can't give you any- 
thing " ; and when I would call upon the " missis," she 
was not to be seen. But the poor white would in- 
vite me into his shanty, and treat me as well as was in 
his power. It was not much, I must admit ; but the 
spirit was willing though the pantry was nearly empty. 
In West Virginia, for instance, I have been entertained 
by some of the "hill people" in their log cabins in the 
most hospitable manner. The obvious reason of this 
is a scarcity of tramps ; when they are few, generosity 
is great, and the few get the benefit. 

112 .Tramping with Tramps 

If the students of this particular phase of sociology 
will only look minutely and personally into the condi- 
tions under which trampdom thrives and increases in 
our country, Barcas's map may yet become famous. 
Charles Godfrey Leland once wrote an article entitled 
^^ Wanted: Sign-Posts for Ginx's Baby." It would 
seem that his prayer has been answered, and that 
this unwanted, unprovided-for member of society has 
found his way through forest and mountains, over 
rivers and prairies, till now he knows the country far 
better than the philanthropist who would gladly get 
on his track. If this topographical survey shall serve 
to bring him nearer what should be, and what I am 
convinced aims to be, a source of betterment for him, 
Barcas wiU not have lived in vain. 


VAGABONDS specialize nowadays quite as much 
as other people. The fight for existence makes 
them do it. Although a few tramps are such all-round 
men that they can succeed almost anywhere, there are 
a great many others who find that they must devote 
their time to one distinct line of begging in order to 
succeed. So to-day we have all sorts of hoboes. 
There are house-beggars, office-beggars, street-beg- 
gars, old-clothes beggars, and of late years still 
another specialization has become popular in vaga- 
bondage. It is called '' land-squatting," which means 
that the beggar in question has chosen a particular 
district for his operations. Of course, a large number 
of tramps still go over all the country, but it is be- 
coming quite customary for vagabonds to pick out 
certain States and counties for their homes. The 
country, as a whole, is so large that no beggar can 
ever really know it on business principles, and some 
clever beggars not long ago decided that it is better 
to know thoroughly a small district than to have only 
a general knowledge of the entire continent. Conse- 
quently our large cities have become overrun with 
tramps who make them their homes the year round, 


114 Tramping with Tramps 

till America can almost compete with England in the 
number of her ^' city vags." There is no large town 
in the United States that does not support its share, 
and it is seldom that these tramps are natives of the 
towns in which they beg. In New York, for example, 
there are scores of beggars who were born in Chicago, 
and vice versa. They have simply picked out the city 
which pleases them most and gone there. In time they 
become so numerous that it is found necessary to spe- 
cialize still further, and even to divide the town itself 
into districts, and to assign them to distinct kinds of 
begging. It is of these specialists in vagrancy that 
I intend to write in this chapter. 

The lowest type is what is called in tramp parlance 
the " tomato-can vag." In New York city, which has 
its full quota of these mis rable creatures, they live in 
boxes, barrels, cellars, and nooks and corners of all 
sorts, where they can curl up and have a "doss'' 
(sleep). They get their food, if it can be called that, 
by picking over the refuse in the slop-barrels and to- 
mato-cans of dirty alleys. They beg very little, asking 
usually for the stale beer they find now and then in 
the kegs near saloons. Money is something that they 
seldom touch, and yet a good many of them have been 
first-class criminals and hoboes in their day. 

I used to know a tomato-can tramp who lived for 
several months in a hogshead near the East-Side docks 
of New York. I visited him one night when on a 
stroU in that part of the cifcy, and had a talk with him 
about his life. After he had reeled off a fine lot of 
yarns, he said: 

" Why, I remember jes lots o' things. I 's been a 


The City Tramp 117 

crook, I ^s been a moocher, an' now I 's shatin' on me 
uppers [I am broke]. Why, what I 's seen would 
keep them blokes up there in Cooper Union readin' all 
winter, I guess." 

This was probably true. He had been everywhere, 
had seen and done nearly everything which the usual 
outcast can see and do, and he wound up his life simply 
^' shatin' on his uppers." No one will have anj'- deal- 
ings with such a tramp except the men and women in 
his own class. He is hated by all the beggars above 
him, and they '^ do " him every chance they get. 

A fair example of this class hatred came under my 
notice in London, England. I was walking along Hol- 
born one evening when I was suddenly accosted by an 
old man who wanted me to give him a drink. 

^' I would n't ask ye," he said, '' 'cept that I 'm nearly 
dyin' o' cold. Can' cher help a feller out ? " 

There was something so pitiful about him that I 
decided to take him into a public house. I picked out 
the lowest one in the neighborhood. The place was 
filled with beggars and criminals, but they were all of 
a higher class than my friend. However, I called for 
his gin, and told him to sit down. It was soon evi- 
dent that the old man was an unwelcome guest, for 
even the bartender looked at him crossly. He noticed 
this, and began to grumble, and in a few minutes 
was in a quarrel with some of the men. The bar- 
tender told him to be quiet, but he claimed that he 
had as good a right to talk as any one else. He was 
finally put out, although I made all the remonstrance 
I dared. I started to leave too, but was prevented. 
This made me angry, and I turned on the men, and said : 


1 18 Tramping with Tramps 

'' What right have you fellows to treat me this w&y ? 
I came in with the old man respectably enough." 

" Oh, come up 'n' 'ave a drink," said one of the men. 
"Don't get 'uffy. Come up V 'ave a bitter." 

Then another said : " Say, was that old feller any 
relation o' yourn? 'Cause ef 'e was, we '11 fetch 'im 
back ; but ef 'e wa'n't, 'e kin stay where 'e is. 'E don't 
belong in 'ere." 

"Why is that?" I asked. 

"Why, don' cher know that 'e ain't 0' our class? 
'E 's a' ole can-moocher. 'E ain't got no right 'ere." 

" Well, do you mean to say that you own this place, 
and no one can come in who is not of your choosing ? " 

" The case is jes this, 'n' you know it : it 's our biz 
to do anybody out o' our classj" 

" Would you ' do ' me if you had a chance ? " 

" Bet cher life ! " 

I got out safely soon after this, and had gained 
knowledge for the future. 

But, hated as he is by the more successful vaga- 
bonds, the tomato-can tramp is just as kind-hearted 
and jovial as any of them. And for fair treatment I 
will risk him every time. As a rule, he is an old man, 
sometimes over seventy years of age. He dresses 
most outlandishly, seldom having any two garments of 
the same color, and what he has are tattered and torn. 
His beard and hair are allowed to grow as long as they 
can, and usually give him the appearance of a hermit. 
Indeed, that is just what he is. He has exiled him- 
self from all that is good and refined, and is like a 
leper even to his brethren. It is just such a life as his, 
however, to which all tramps that drink, as most out- 

The City Tramp 119 

casts do, are tending. It matters not how clever a 
criminal or beggar a man may be, if he is a victim of 
liquor, and lives long enough, he is sure to end as a 
tomato-can tramp. There is a suction in low life 
which draws men continually lower. It is an inferno 
of various little worlds, and each has its own pitch of 

The next higher type of the town tramp is the ^^ two- 
cent dosser"— the man who lives in stale-beer shops. 
In New York he is usually to be found about Mulberry 
Bend, the last resort of metropolitan outcasts before 
dropping down into the " barrel-and-box gentry." 
This district supports the queer kind of lodging-house 
called by the men who use it the " two-cent doss." It 
is really a makeshift for a restaurant, and is occasion- 
ally kept by an Italian. The lodgers come in late in 
the evening, pay two cents for some stale beer or 
coffee, and then scramble for "spots" on the benches 
or floor. All nationalities are represented. I have 
found in one of these places Chinamen, Frenchmen, 
Germans, Italians, Poles, negroes. Irishmen, English- 
men, and " 'Mer'cans," and they were all as happy as 
could be. They beg just enough to keep them in 
"booze," their food being found mainly at "free 
lunches." Like the tomato-can tramp, they have little 
intercourse with beggars above them. By this I mean, 
of course, that they know they will not be treated 
sociably outside of their class, and decide very wisely 
to remain where they belong. They rarely leave a 
town which they have picked out as a home, and 
some of them never even get out of their narrow 

120 Tramping with Tramps 

In Chicago, for instance, there is a '^ joint" near 
Madison Street in which some men simply live day and 
night, excepting the few hours they spend in looking 
for the pennies they need. In the daytime they sit on 
the benches and talk shop, and at night they lie on the 
floor. There is a watchman who cares for them at 
night J he sleeps near the door in order to let in any 
belated beggar. But he first lights his candle, and 
commands the beggar to show how much money he 
has. If it is five cents, the price of a mug of beer, he 
is allowed to enter. 

In New Orleans I once saw a place somewhat simi- 
lar, the only difference being that at night ropes were 
stretched across the bar-room for the men to lean on 
while sleeping. Some persons fail to note much dif- 
ference in the lives of the two-cent dossers and the 
tomato-can tramps, but the two-cent dossers make a 
sharp class distinction out of their greater privilege. 
Personally, I should rather live in a barrel or box 
than in a joint, if only for the sake of cleanliness. 
The joint is simply a nest of vermin, and cannot be 
kept clean ; whereas, if a man is careful and works 
hard, he can keep a barrel fairly habitable for him- 
self, and with no other occupants. Still, I am sorry 
to say that few men who do live in barrels achieve or 
desire this success. The most unique feature of the 
two-cent dosser class is its apparent happiness. The 
men are always funny, and crack a joke as easily as 
they tell a lie. I remember most vividly a night in 
one of their joints in St. Louis. All night long some 
one was laughing and joking, and my questions always 
met a witty reply. I noticed, for instance, that several 

The City Tramp 121 

of the men were blind in one eye, and I asked the mean- 
ing of this. 

"Ha! ha! Don' cher know? Why, it 's 'cause 
we 're lookin' fer work so hard." 

Another man wanted to know whether I could tell 
him where he could get a "kid." I asked him what 
use he had for one. 

" Oh, prushuns [kids] is vaPable ; when you 've got 
'em, you 're treasurer of a company." 

Nevertheless, these men very seldom have boys, be- 
cause their life is too unexciting, and the lads will not 
stay with them. A prushun, as a rule, wants some- 
thing livelier than loafing around saloons and corners, 
and consequently is rarely found in these two classes. 

The other types of city vagabondage can be classi- 
fied as the " lodgin'-house gang," with the exception of 
the room-beggar. I must therefore consider them in 
relation to their different styles of begging rather than 
living ; for when once a beggar can live in any sort of 
lodging-house, he has a right to belong to the general 
crowd, no matter what he pays for his bed. The 
seven-center house, for instance, is considerably 
lower than the ten-center, but its being a lodging- 
house is sufficient to separate its inmates entirely from 
the two classes who live in boxes and beer-shops. 
And to make the classifying feature more intelligible, 
I shall give first a short account of the lodging-house 
in all its grades, omitting only those that are carried 
on by charity. 

Beginning with the lowest, there is the seven- 
center, in which hammocks of a bad order are used 
as beds. The covering is very often the lodger's coat, 

122 Tramping with Tramps 

unless he happens to have a blanket of his own. In 
winter there is a large stove in the middle of the sleep- 
ing-room, and this keeps things fairly warm. The 
usual lodger in this house is the town tramp, although 
the wandering hobo goes there too. I have also seen 
a few genuine seekers of work there, but never two 
nights running. One night is usually enough, and 
they sleep out in preference to mixing in such a crowd 
as the place shelters. 

The ten-center is the next grade above, and is 
probably the most popular of all in the United States. 
It is built after various models, the commonest being 
the ^' double-decker," where the bunks are made of gas- 
pipe, one right above the other. In this case the bed- 
ding is a straw tick and a blanket ; that is all, as a rule. 
Yet I have known sheets to be used. Another model 
is something like the forecastle of a ship. Around the 
walls several tiers of bunks are built, sometimes twelve 
feet high, and in the middle is the ^' sitting-room," with 
stove and chairs. Occasionally the only bedding is 
straw, there being no blanket of any kind. The class 
of men found in places of this type is hard to describe ; 
the town tramp is there, and so is almost every other 
kind of vagabond. It is a sort of cesspool into which 
are drained all sorts of outcasts, and the only way 
to distinguish them is to know them personalh\ 
Young and old, the intelligent and the ignorant, the 
criminal and the newsboy, all are found in the ten- 

The fifteen-center comes next, and is very much 
like the ten-center, except that its customers are a 
little more orderly, and that it furnishes lockers into 

The City Tramp 123 

which the lodgers can put their clothes. This latter 
point is really the raison d'etre of the Jfif teen-cent lodg- 
ing-house, according to my experience. At any rate, 
I have failed to see any other good reason for charging 
five cents more for the beds, which are usually no better 
than those in the ten-center. 

In the other grades, at twenty and twenty-five cents 
a night a man can have a little room to himself ; by 
" room " I mean a sort of cell without a roof, in which 
is a cot, a chair (sometimes), and a locker. I slept 
in one of these houses in the Bowery one night. 
The office and sitting-room were comparatively cozy, 
and the lodgers were respectable so far as dress and 
general manner were concerned. Up-stairs in the 
sleeping-apartments things were not so pleasant. 
There was a bad odor about everything, and the beds 
were decidedly unclean, as are most beds in most 
lodging-houses. I left word at the ofiice that I wished 
to be called at seven o'clock in the morning, and my 
order was distinctly obeyed, for about half-past six I 
was wakened by a man poking me in the ribs with a 
long stick leveled at me from over the partition -wall. 
After the man had poked me with the stick, he said, 
*' Eh, bloke, time to get up." 

Some tramps consider this style, and it probably 
is in their cases, for they are accustomed to all 
sorts of places, and the twenty-five-center is their 
nearest approach to hotel life. Although I have 
probably overlooked some exceptional institutions in 
this general description of lodging-houses, I have 
nevertheless given a fair account of the usual homes 
of the ^' lodgin'-house gang." And, as I said before, 

124 Tramping with Tramps 

the town tramp is mixed up in this gang so promis- 
cuously that to pick him out of the general crowd 
necessitates a personal encounter. All that I can do 
now is to portray him in his various guises as a 
beggar. I shall take four types to do this— the street- 
beggar, the house-beggar, the office-beggar, and the 
old-clothes beggar. These are all well-known charac- 
ters in city vagabondage. 

The street-beggar is, I believe, the cleverest all-round 
vagabond in the world. He knows more about human 
nature than any other tramp of my acquaintance, and 
can read its weak points with surprising ease. I used 
to know a New York tramp of this kind who begged 
almost entirely of women as they walked along the 
streets, and he claimed that he could tell, the minute 
he had seen their eyes, whether it would pay to 
'^ tackle 'em." How he did this I do not pretend to 
know, and he himself could not tell, but it was true 
that he seldom judged a woman wrongly. Fifth 
Avenue was his beat, and he knew fully fifty women 
in that district who were sure to give him something. 
His main tricks, if I can call them that, were those of 
the voice rather than of the hand. He knew when to 
whine and when to '•'■ talk straight," and, best of all, he 
knew when to make people laugh. This is the highest 
accomplishment of the street-beggar, for when a per- 
son, will laugh with him he is pretty sure to get some- 
thing ; and if he can succeed in picking out a certain 
number of " clients," as he calls them, who will laugh 
with him every week the year round, his living is as- 
sured. This is the business of the clever street-beggar ; 
he must scrape acquaintance with enough people in his 


The City Tramp 127 

chosen district to support him. It matters not to him 
whether he excites their pity or mirth so long as he 
gets their nickels and dimes. I knew a woman beggar 
of this sort whose main trick, or "capital/' as she 
called it, was extreme faith in the chivalry of men. 
She would clutch a man by the coat-sleeve, and tragi- 
cally exclaim : 

" How dare you cast me off? Don't you know that 
I am a woman? Have you no mother or sisters? 
Would you treat them as you are treating me ? " 

Some men are so squeamishly and nervously chival- 
rous that they will be taken in by such a beggar every 

Women very often make the keenest street-beggars. 
They are more original in posing and dressing, and if 
with their other talents they can also use their voices 
cleverly, they do very well. Speaking of posing re- 
minds me of a woman who is usually to be found near 
the Alhambra music-hall in London. She dresses very 
quietly and neatly, and her entire manner is that of 
a lady. I believe that she really was one in her day, 
but liquor has made her a match- vender ; and her clever 
pose and dress are so attractive that people give her 
three times the value of the matches which she sells 
them. This match-selling is the main trick of the Lon- 
don street-beggar. It is a trick of defense against the 
police, and at the same time a blind to the public. 
People think that men and women selling matches are 
trying to earn an honest living, and this is true some- 
times ; but, according to my observation, the majority 
of match-venders offer one hand to the public for alms, 
and carry their '' lights " (matches) in the other. 

128 Tramping with Tramps 

The business of the house-beggar is obviously to 
know a certain number of good houses in his district, 
just as the street-beggar knows a certain number of 
people in his street or streets. And if he is a mendi- 
cant who can deal with women more successfully than 
with men, he must know just when to visit houses in 
order that only the women may be at home. If he is 
a beggar of this style, he usually carries a ^'jigger"— 
an artificially made sore, placed usually on an arm or 
leg. He calls at the front door and asks for ''the 
lady," When she appears he '' sizes her up " as best 
he can, and decides whether it will pay to use his 
jigger. If it is necessary, he prefaces this disgust- 
ing scene by an account of his hardships, and claims 
that he has been very badly burned. Then he shows 
his miserable sore, and few women are callous enough 
to see it without flinching. If they '' squeal," as the 
tramp says, he is sure to be rewarded. 

Another trick is to send around pretty little girls 
and boys to do the begging. A child will succeed at 
house-begging when an able-bodied man or woman 
will fail utterly, and the same is true of a very old 
man— the more of a centenarian he looks, the better. 
But better than any of these tricks is what is called the 
'' f aintin' gag." I myself had the benefit of an under- 
taking of this character in Indianapolis some years ago, 
and I know it works well. I got into the town one 
night, and was at a loss to know what to do, until I 
accidentally met an old hobo who was trying to make 
his living there as a city tramp. He had been in the 
place only a few days, and had not yet found his par- 
ticular district. He was simply browsing about in 

The City Tramp 129 

search of it, and he suggested that we try a certain 
quarter of the town that he had not visited at all. 
We did try it, and, after visiting twenty houses, got 
only two pieces of bread and butter. This, naturally 
enough, made my partner angry, and he told me to 
go back to the hang-out while he went on another 
beat. I waited for him nearly an hour, when he re- 
turned with a ^^ poke-out " (food given at the door) and 
a " sinker " (a dollar). I, of course, was surprised, and 
asked for details. 

^' Oh, I got 'em right 'nough," he said. '' You see, 
after leavin' you, I was so dead horstile that I was 
ready for anythin', 'n' the first house I struck was a 
parson's. At first he did n't want to feed me at all, 
but I got into his settin'-room 'n' gave 'im a great 
story. I tole 'im that I was nearly a-dyin' with hun- 
ger, 'n' ef he did n't feed me, the s'ciety agen' cruelty 
to animals 'u'd prosecute 'im. Then I begun to reel a 
bit 'n' look faintin'-like, 'n' purty soon I flops right on 
the floor as ef I was dead. Then the racket begun. 
The parson called ' Wifey ! ' an' the both of 'em pep- 
pered 'n' salted me for about ten minutes, when I 
comes to an' looks better. Then they could n't feed 
me fast 'nough. I had pie, cake, 'n' a lot o' other 
things 'fore I wuz done, 'n' when I left the parson give 
rae the sinker, 'n' ^ wifey' the poke-out; hope to die 
ef they did n't. See ? That 's the way ye got ter catch 
them parsons —right in the eye." 

As the old-clothes beggar is only a subspecies of 
the house-begging class, he deserves mention under 
the same head. His business, as his name implies, 
lies principally in looking for old wearing-apparel, 

130 Tramping with Tramps 

which he sells to dealers in such wares. Sometimes 
he even pays for his food in order to devote his entire 
time and talents to his specialty. In London, for 
instance, I know a trio of this sort who live in a cellar 
where they keep their " goods." I visited their place 
one afternoon, and one of the men was kind enough 
to let himself be interviewed about his business. My 
first question was how he begged. 

" Well, o' course our first business is to wear bad 
togs. F'r instance, ef I 's beggin' fer shoes I wants to 
put on a pair thet 's all gone, else I can't get any 
more, 'n' the same when I 's beggin' fer coats 'n' 'ats. 
It 's no use tellin' people that you 're beggin' fer some- 
body else. They won't believe it." 

Then I questioned him as to the sort of garments 
which were most profitable. 

'^ Breeches. We kin sell 'em every time. 'Ats does 
pretty well too, 'n' ef we get good shoes we kin do a 
rattlin' business. One o' my pals made seven bob fer 
a week jes out o' shoes. Wimmenses' togs hain't up 
ter the men's ; an' yet we does fairly well wid 'em too. 
In 'ats, f'r instance, we does fairly good, 'cause the gals 
knows where we lives, 'n' they comes right 'ere instid 
o' goin' ter the dealers. Petticoats is next best when 
we gets good ones, but we don't very often, 'cause 
these Whitechapel donners [girls] wants picter-like 
ones, 'n' we don't always get 'em. I wish we could 
jes stick ter beggin' fer men's togs, 'cause they 's the 
best. Jes gimme 'nough breeches, 'n' I won't com- 

In American cities also, men's clothing is the most 
profitable for beggars of this sort; very few tramps 

The City Tramp 131 

ask for " wimmenses' togs." In Germany, however, 
all sorts of old clothes are looked for, and the city 
tramps are great competitors of the Jews in this busi- 
ness. An old German Jew once said to me : 

" I wish these Kunden [tramps] were all dead. They 
spoil our business right along, because they get their 
stuff for nothing, and then undersell us. That is n't 
right, and I know it is n't." 

In Frankfort-on-the-Main I once knew a Swiss 
beggar who collected eighteen pairs of shoes in one* 
week, not counting other things that he asked for also. 
And he claimed that, after trying various kinds of beg- 
ging, he had found the most money in the shoe busi- 
ness. Of course, all this depends on a beggar's ability 
to make people believe that he is really deserving, for 
clothes-beggars, like a number of other specialists, 
must have some natural adaptation for their chosen 

This is also true of the office-beggar, or "sticker," 
as he calls himself. His specialty brings him almost 
entirely in contact with men, and he must be exceed- 
ingly clever to deal successfully with them. A 
will argue with a beggar, if he has time, just twice 
as long as a woman will, and he will also give just 
twice as much money if he gives anything. So the 
office-beggar has good material to work on if he 
understands it. One of his theories is that, when 
begging of men, the *' story " must be " true to nature " ; 
that is, so simple and direct that there is no possibility 
of doubling on his track. For instance, he will visit 
a lawyer, tell his story, and then simply hang around 
as long as he dares. It is this waiting so patiently 

132 Tramping with Tramps 

that gives him his name of " sticker." There are fully 
a hundred tramps of this sort in New York city alone. 
They have their separate beats, and seldom leave them 
unless they are worked out. I know one beggar who 
never leavesNewspaper Row and Wall Street except for 
amusement, and he makes, on an average, seventy-five 
cents a day. And I know another tramp whose busi- 
ness keeps him confined to Broadway between Barclay 
Street and the Battery, while his home is in the Bowery 
near Houston Street. Men of this stamp have evi- 
dently been lucky in the selection of offices- where a 
certain sum of money will be given every week. Such 
good fortune is the ambition of every energetic city 
tramp. He wants something definite every day, week, 
and month, and as he gets it or fails to get it, rates 
himself successful or unsuccessful. 

The aristocrat of city vagabondage is represented by 
what I call the room-beggar. He cannot be classified 
with the lodging-house men, because he has little to do 
with them, except socially, as at the saloon or music- 
hall, for instance. His home is entirely separated 
from theirs, it being a room, and sometimes even an 
apartment, which he rents for himself and family. If 
he is successful at his trade, and is careful to dress 
with some nicety, he can scarcely be distinguished from 
the usual citizen, except by the trained observer ; the 
only mark about him being that peculiar glance of the 
eye common to all criminals and beggars. 

The room-beggar has no unique line of trade that I 
have been able to discover 5 he goes into anything that 
pays, and the main difference between him and the 
majority of the men in the " lodgin'-house gang" is 

The City Tramp 133 

his greater ingenuity in making things pay. He is the 
brainy man of the city tramps, and the other beggars 
knowit^ and all look up to him, with the exception of the 
clever street-beggar, who considers himself his equal, 
as I think he really is. 

No tramp, for instance, is so clever at the begging- 
letter ^'racket," and this means a good deal. To be 
able to write a letter to a perfect stranger and make 
money out of it requires a skilled hand, and a man 
educated in many lines. The public has become some- 
what used to this trick, and will not be deceived 
every time ; only men of an original turn of mind can 
do much with it. It is this originality that is the main 
talent of the room-beggar. He concocts stories which 
would do credit to a literary man, and sometimes 
makes nearly as much money as the daring thief. 

Women are also found in this class, and do very 
well at times. In the city of Berlin, Germany, there 
lived a ^4ady" of this sort. She had two homes. 
One was a cellar in a poor quarter of the town, and 
the other was an aristocratic etage in the West 
End. She sent letters to well-to-do people of all sorts, 
in which she claimed to be eine Jiochwohlgeborene 
Dame in distress. She invited likely philanthropists 
to visit her in her cellar in order that they might see 
how unfortunate her position really was. People 
went, were shocked, and, as a result, she had her 
apartment in the West End. For about ten months 
this woman and her two daughters lived in real luxury, 
and one of the "young ladies" was to marry in ''high 
society " about the time that the ruse was made public. 

This is by no means a new trick, and yet people are 

134 Tramping with Tramps 

being continually swindled. Why ? Simply because 
the beggars who undertake it are cleverer than the 
people fooled by it. That is the only reason. If 
charitable people would only commit charity to skilled 
hands it would be much easier to handle beggars. The 
tramp is a specialist; so why not leave specialists to 
deal with him? The whole trouble comes of our 
willingness to be more unpractical in our philanthropy 
than in our business. 

There is one more city tramp that I must catalogue. 
It is the "sponger." His duty in life consists, he 
thinks, in simply living off the visiting knights of 
the road. He is a parasite fed by parasites, and 
hated by all self-respecting beggars. He is found 
wherever the traveling hoboes congregate, and there 
is no town in any country that I have visited where 
he does not flourish. In the Bowery his name is 
legion, and a hobo can scarcely visit a saloon there 
without meeting him. The wandering vagabond con- 
siders him the "bunco-man" of the beggars' world, 
and that is a good name. He will do anything to get 
money from a hobo, but I doubt very much whether 
he ever begs on his own hook. Exactly how he comes 
to exist no one knows, but I fancy that he is a discour- 
aged tramp ; he has found that he is not a born beggar, 
and has concluded that the next best thing is to live 
off men who are. If there were no beggars in the 
world, he would probably have to work for his living, 
for he could not steal successfully. 

As for stealing, few town beggars ever go into 
that as a business. Of course, they will take things 
that do not belong to them if they are sure of not 

The City Tramp 135 

being caught, but this safety is so vain a hope that 
it is seldom ''banked on." It is strange that the 
city tramp is not more of a thief, for probably no 
one knows more about the town's chances than he. 
Criminals are always anxious to have some acquain- 
tance in his ranks, knowing only too well that the 
''town vag" can post them as no one else can. 

Another thing rather more unpopular among town 
tramps than is usually supposed is joining a clique. 
In New York city, for example, there are various gangs 
of toughs who prowl about the town committing all 
sorts of depredations and making themselves generally 
feared. Even the policemen are now and then held at 
bay by them, and woe to the drunken sailor with his 
wages in his pockets who falls into their hands. I 
have seldom found the city tramp in such company. 
He knows too weU the dangers of such crowds, 
prefers what he calls the "cut-throat principle," or 
each man for himself. There is too much slavery for 
him among toughs of the gang order, and he can- 
not move around as freely as he likes. Then, too, 
gangs are every now and then fighting one another, 
and that is usually harder work than the beggar 
cares for. 

One of the most interesting things in the study of 
tramps is to get at their own opinions of themselves. 
To a certain degree they may be called rational beings. 
There is opinion and method and reason in trampdom, 
—no doubt of it,— and there are shades of opinion 
that correspond to varieties of method. The tramp 
of the prairies, the " fawny man " in New England, the 

136 Tramping with Tramps 

city tramp in the Bowery, each has his point of view. 
If one catechizes or interviews the last named of 
these, he says : 

^' I 'm a beggar, and I know it. I know, too, that 
most people look upon me as a bad sort of fellow. 
They want to catch and punish me, and I don't want 
them to do it. They are warring against me, and I 'm 
warring against them. They think that I don't know 
how I should use my life, and I think that I do. 
Somebody must be mistaken ; I think that they are, 
and I 'm doing my best to beat them. If they beat 
me, well and good ; and if I beat them, well and good." 

This is the talk of the real artist in low life 5 he is 
in the vagabond world because it pleases him better 
than any other. A little different is the point of view 
of the drunkard beggar : 

^' I 'm a fool, and I know it. No man with any 
sense and honor would live as I do. But the worst of 
it all is, I can't live otherwise. Liquor won't leave 
me alone, and as I 've got to live somehow, why, I 
might as well live where I can take care of myself. 
If people are fools enough to let me swindle them, so 
much the worse for them and so much the better for 

To change such opinions as these is a hard task. 
The first can be corrected only when the man who 
owns it is discouraged. When his spirit is broken he 
can be helped, but not until then. The second is the 
result of long suffering through passion. Until that 
passion is conquered nothing can be done. 



THE tramp is the hungriest fellow in the world. 
No matter who he is,— Chatcsseegrabentapezirer, 
moocher, or hobo,— his appetite is invariably ravenous. 
How he comes by that quality of his defects is an open 
question even in his own mind. Sometimes he ac- 
counts for it on the ground that he is continually 
changing climate, and then again attributes it to his 
incessant loafing. A tramp once said to me : " Ciga- 
rette, it ain't work that makes blokes hungry 5 it 's 
bummin' ! " I think there is some truth in this, for I 
know from personal experience that no work has ever 
made me so hungry as simple idling; and while on 
the road I also had a larger capacity for food than I 
have usually. Even riding on a freight-train for a 
morning used to make me hungry enough to eat two 
dinners, and yet there was almost no work about it. 
And I feel safe in saying that the tramp can usually 
eat nearly twice as much as the laboring-man of or- 
dinary appetite. 

Now, what does he find to satisfy this rapacious 
craving 1 There are two famous diets in vagabondage, 


138 Tramping with Tramps 

called the ''hot" and the ''cold." Each one has its 
advocates and propagandists. The hot is befriended 
mainly by the persevering and energetic ; the cold be- 
longs exclusive^ to the lazy and unsuccessful. The 
first is remarkable for what its champions call " set- 
downs," that is to say, good solid meals three times 
a day— or oftener. The second consists almost en- 
tirely of "hand-outs " or "poke-outs," which are nothing 
but bundles of cold food handed out at the back door. 
Every man on the road takes sides, one way or 
the other, in regard to these two systems of feeding, 
and his standing in the brotherhood is regulated by 
his choice. If he joins the set-downers he is consid- 
ered at least a true hobo, and although he may have 
enemies, they will not dare to speak ill of his gift for 
begging. If, on the other hand, he contents himself 
with hand- outs, he not only loses all prestige among 
the genuine hoboes, but is continually in danger of 
tumbling down into the very lowest grades of tramp 
life. There is no middle course for him to follow. 


Success in vagabondage depends largely on distinct 
and indispensable traits of character— diligence, pa- 
tience, nerve, and politeness. If a tramp lacks any 
one of these qualities he is handicapped, and his chosen 
life will go hard with him. He needs diligence in 
order to keep his winnings up to a certain standard ; 
he needs patience to help him through districts where 
charity is below par; he needs nerve to give him 
reputation among his cronies, and he needs politeness 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 139 

to win his way with strangers and to draw their sym- 
pathy and help. If he possesses these characteristics, 
no matter what his nationality may be, he will suc- 
ceed. If not, he would better work than tramp— he 
will find it much easier and twice as profitable. The 
poke-out beggar is deficient in every one of these 
qualities, and his winnings demonstrate it. 

I made his acquaintance first about ten years ago. 
I had just begun my life on the road, and as I knew 
but very little about tramping and nothing about 
begging, it was only natural that I should fall in with 
him, for he is the first person one meets in the vagabond 
world. The successful beggars do not show them- 
selves immediately, and the newcomer must first give 
some valid evidence of his right to live among them 
before they take him in— a custom, by the way, which 
shows that tramping is much like other professions. 
But the poke-out tramp is not so fastidious ; he 
chums with any one he can, successful or not ; and as 
I had to associate with somebody, I began with him. 
After a while I was graduated out of his rank, and 
received into the set-down class, but only after a 
hard and severe training, which I would not go 
through again— even for the sake of Sociology. 


As a rule, the poke-out beggar has but one meal 
a day, usually breakfast. This is the main meal 
with all vagabonds, and even the lazy tramp makes 
frantic efforts to find it. Its quantity as well as its 
quality depends largely on the kind of house he visits. 

140 Tramping with Tramps 

His usual breakfast, if he is lucky, consists of coffee, 
a little meat, some potatoes, and ''punk 'n' plaster" 
(bread and butter). Coffee, more than anything else, 
is what every hobo wants early in the morning. 
After sleeping out of doors or in a box-car, especially 
during the colder months, a man is stiff and chilled, 
and coffee is the thing to revive him when he cannot 
get whisky, which is by no means the easiest thing to 
beg. I have known tramps to drink over six cups of 
coffee before they looked for anything solid, and I 
myself have often needed three before I could eat 
at all. 

The dinner of the lazy beggar is a very slim affair. 
It is either a free lunch in a saloon, or a hand-out. 
This latter consists mainly of sandwiches, but now 
and then a cold potato will be put into the bundle, 
and also, occasionally, a piece of pie. After the tramp 
has had one or two of these impromptu lunches he 
persuades himself that he has had enough, and goes off 
for a rest. How often— but on account of bashful- 
ness, rather than anything else— have I done the same 
thing ! And what poor dinners they were ! They no 
more satisfy a tramp's appetite than they would a 
lion's, but the indolent fellow tries to persuade himself 
otherwise. I once overheard a typical member of the 
class discussing the matter with himself, or rather 
with his appetite, which, for the sake of argument and 
companionship, he looked upon as a personality quite 
apart. He had just finished a slim and slender hand- 
out, had tossed into the bushes the paper bag that 
held it together, and, when I saw him, was looking up 
into the sky in a most confidential manner. Soon, 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 141 

and as if sorry he could not be kinder to it, he cast 
his eyes pityingly on his paunch, and said in a sad 

" Poor devil ! I feel fer y'u— bet cher life I do ! 
But yer 'U have to stand it, I guess. It 's the only 
way I know fer y'u to git along." Then he patted it 
gently, and repeated again his sympathetic ^'poor 
devil." But not once did he scold himself for his 
laziness. Not he ! He never does. 

His supper is very similar to his dinner, except that 
he tries now and then to wash it down with a cup of 
tea or coffee. Later in the evening he also indulges in 
another hand-out, unless he is on a freight-train or 
far from the abodes of men. 

Such is the diet of the lazy tramp, and, strange to 
relate, despite its unwholesomeness and its meager- 
ness, he is a comparatively healthy fellow, as are 
almost all tramps. Their endurance, especially that 
of the poke-out tramps, is something remarkable. 
I have known them to live on ^' wind-puddin'," as 
they call air, for over forty-eight hours without be- 
coming exhausted, and there are cases on record 
where they have gone for four and five days without 
anything to eat or drink, and have lived to tell the 
tale. A man with whom I once traveled in Pennsyl- 
vania did this very thing. He was locked into a 
box-car which was shunted off on an unused side- 
track a long distance from any house or place where 
his cries could be heard. He was in the car for nearly 
one hundred and twenty hours, and although almost 
dead when found, he picked up in a few days, and 
before long was on the road again. I saw him at the 

142 Tramping with Tramps 

World's Fair at Chicago, and he was just as healthy 
and happy in his own way as ever. 

In some of the sparsely settled districts in Texas 
tramps have suffered most appalling deaths by such 
accidents, but so long as a beggar keeps his freedom 
I do not believe that even a lazy one starves to death 
in this country. I know very well that people do 
not realize this, and that they feed tramps regularly, 
laboring under the delusion that it is only humane 
so to do. 

But although the tramp hates honest labor, he hates 
starvation still more, and if he finds it impossible 
to pick up anything to eat, he will either go to jail 
or work. He loves this world altogether too much 
to voluntarily explore another of which he knows so 


The clothes of the poke-out beggar are not much, 
if any, better than his food. In summer he seldom 
has more than a shirt, a pair of trousers, a coat, some 
old shoes, and a battered hat. Even in winter he 
wears little more, especially if he goes South. I have 
never seen him with underclothes or socks, and an 
overcoat is something he almost never gets hold of, 
unless he steals one, which is by no means common. 
While I lived with him I wore just such "■ togs." I 
shall never forget my first tramp suit of clothes. 
The coat was patched in a dozen places, and was nearly 
three sizes too large for me ; the waistcoat was torn 
in the back, and had but two buttons ; the trousers 
were out at the knees, and had to be turned up in 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 143 

London fashion at the bottom to keep me from trip- 
ping ] the hat was an old derby with the crown dented 
in numerous places; and the only decent thing I 
had was a flannel shirt. I purchased this rig of a 
Jew, and thought it would be just the thing for the 
road, and so it was, but only for the poke-out 
tramp's road. The hoboes laughed at me and called 
me " hoodoo," and I never got in with them in any 
such garb. Nevertheless, I wore it for nearly two 
months, and so long as I associated with lazy beggars 
only, it was all right. Many of them were never 
dressed so well, and not a few envied me my old coat. 

It is by no means uncommon to see a poke-out 
vagabond wearing a garment which belongs to a 
woman's wardrobe. He is so indifferent that he will 
wear anything that will shield his nakedness, and I 
have known him to be so lazy that he did not even 
do that. 

One old fellow I remember particularly. He had 
lost his shirt somehow, and for almost a' week went 
about with only a coat between his body and the 
world at large. Some of his pals, although they were 
of his own class, told him that he ought to find another 
shirt, and the more he delayed it the more they labored 
with him. One night they were all gathered at a hang- 
out near Lima, Ohio, and the old fellow was told that 
unless he found a shirt that night they would take away 
his coat also. He begged and begged, but they were 
determined, and as he did not show any intention of 
doing as he was bidden, they carried out the threat. 
And all that night and the following day he was actu- 
ally so lazy and stubborn that he would not yield, and 

144 Tramping with Tramps 

would probably be there still, in some form or other, 
had his pals not relented and returned him the coat. 
As I said, he went for nearly a week without finding 
a shirt, and not once did he show the least shame or 

Not long after this experience he got into limbo, 
and had to wear the famous ^^ zebra "—the peni- 
tentiary dress. It is not popular among tramps, and 
they seldom wear it, but that old rascal, in spite of 
the disgrace and inconvenience that his confinement 
brought upon him, was probably pleased that he did 
not have to find his own clothes. 

Such are the poke-out tramps of every country 
where I have studied them, and such they will always 
be. They are constitutionally incapacitated for any 
successful career in vagabondage, and the wonder is 
that they live at all. Properly speaking, they have no 
connection with the real brotherhood, and I should not 
have referred to them here, except that the pubhc 
mistakes them for the genuine hoboes. They are not 
hoboes, and nothing angers the latter so much as to 
be classed with them. 

The hobo is exceedingly proud in his way,— 
a person of susceptibilities,— and if you want to 
offend him, call him a "gay-cat" or a " poke-outer.'^ 
He will never forgive you. 

Almost the first advice given me after I had managed 
to scramble into the set-down class came from an 
old vagabond known among his cronies as " Portland 
Shorty." He knew that I had been but a short time on 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 145 

the road, and that in many respects I had not met 
with the success which was necessary to entitle me to 
respect among men of his class, but nevertheless he 
was willing to give me a few pointers, which, by the 
way, all hoboes are glad to do, if they feel that the 
recipient will turn them to profit. 

I met Shorty for the first time in Chicago, and while 
we were lounging on the grass in the Lake Front 
Park, the following conversation took place : 

"Cigarette," he began,— for I had already received 
my tramp name,— "how long V y'u been on the 

I replied : " About two months." 

" Wall, how long d' y'u 'spect to stay there ? " 

" Oh, 's long 's I 'm happy." 

" Ez long ez yer happy, eh ? Wall, then, I 'm goin' 
to chew the rag wid y'u fer a little while. Now, 'f 
yer wants to be happy, here 's a little advice fer y'u. 
In the first place, make up yer mind jes wha' cher 
goin' to be. Ef y'u 'spect to work fer yer livin', why, 
get oif the road. Moochin' spiles workin' jes ez 
workin' spiles moochin'. The two don't go together 
nohow. So 'f yer goin' to be a bum fer life, never 
think o' work. Jes give yerself entirely to yer own 
speshul callin', fer 'f y'u don't yer '11 regret it. 'N the 
second place, y'u wan' to decide what kind o' beggar 
yer goin' to make. Ef yer a thief, 'n' playin' the beg- 
gar jes as a guy, why, then y'u knows yer bizness bet- 
ter 'n I do. But ef y'u ain't, 'n' are jes browsin' round 
lookin' fer a berth, then I wants to tell yer somethin'. 
There 's diff'rent kinds o' beggars ; some gits there, 'n' 
some does n't. Them what gits there I call arteests, 

146 Tramping with Tramps 

'n' them what does n't I call ban'crupts. Now, wha* 
cher goin' to be, arteest or ban'crupt ? " 

I replied that I was still undecided, since I had not 
yet learned whether I could make a success on the 
road or not, but added that my inclination would be 
toward the "arteest" class. 

'^ That 's right," he began afresh. '' Be an arteest 
or nothin'. Beggin' 's a great bizness 'f yer cut out 
fer it, 'cause y'u 've got everythin' to win 'n' nothin' 
to lose. Not many callin's has them good points— 
see ? Now, 'f yer goin' to be an arteest, y'u wants to 
make up yer mind to one thing, 'n' that is — hard 
work. Some people thinks that moochin' is easy, but 
lemme tell yer 't ain't. Batterin', when it 's done well, 
is the difficultest job under the moon— take my tip 
fer that. Y'u got to work hard all yer life to make 
boodle, 'n' 'f y'u wan' to save it, y'u mus' n't booze. 
Drinkin' 's what spiles bums. If they c'u'd leave it 
alone they 'd be somethin'. Now, Cig, that 's good 
sound talk, 'n' you 'd better hang on to it." 

I did, and it helped me as much as anything else in 
getting in with the real hoboes. I have known them, 
now, for ten years, and feel abundantly qualified to 
describe their diet and dress. 


In the first place, they eat three good warm meals 
every day— breakfast from seven to eight o'clock, din- 
ner at twelve, and supper at six. These are the set- 
downs^ in tramp life, and it is the duty of every 

1 In Germany and England the tramps usually eat their set- 
downs in cheap restaurants or at lodging-houses. They beg 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 147 

professional to find them regularly. The breakfast 
is very similar to the poke-out tramp's breakfast, 
the main additions being oatmeal and pancakes, if the 
beggar is willing to look for them. They can be found 
with a little perseverance. There are also some hoboes 
who want pie for breakfast, and they have it almost 
constantly. I once traveled with a Maine tramp who 
simply would not consider his breakfast complete 
until he had had his usual piece of apple-pie. And he 
a^^tually had the nerve to go to houses and ask for 
that alone. During our companionship, which lasted 
over a week, he failed but once to get it, and then it 
was because he had to make a train. 

The dinner is a more elaborate affair, and the tramp 
must often visit a number of houses before he finds 
the various dishes he desires. I remember well a hunt 
I had for a dinner in St. Louis. A Western tramp 
was my comrade at the time, and we had both decided 
upon our bill of fare. He wanted meat and potatoes, 
'' punk 'n' plaster,'' some kind of dessert (pudding pre- 
ferred), and three cups of coffee. I wanted the same 
things minus the dessert, and I had to visit fifteen 
houses before my appetite was satisfied. But, as my 
companion said, the point is that I finally got my din- 
ner. He too was successful, even to the kind of 
pudding he wished. 

Not all tramps are so particular as my Western 
pal, but they must have the ''substanshuls" (meat 
and potatoes and bread and butter) anyhow. Unless 
they get them they are angry, and scold eveni;hing 

money to pay for them, rather than look for them at private 


148 Tramping with Tramps 

and everybody. I once knew a vagabond to call down 
all sorts of plagues and miseries on a certain house 
because he could not get enough potatoes there. He 
prayed that it might be cursed with smallpox, all the 
fevers that he knew, and every loathsome disease— 
and he meant it, too. 

There are a number of hoboes who occasionally 
take their dinners in the form of what they call the 
" made-to-order scoff." It is something they have 
invented themselves, and for many reasons is their 
happiest meal. It takes place at the hang-out, 
and a more appropriate environment could not be 
found. When the scoff is on the program, the vaga- 
bonds gather together and decide who shall beg the 
meat, the potatoes, the onions, the corn, the bread 
and butter, the tea and coffee, and the desserts, if they 
are procurable. Then each one starts out on his sep- 
arate errand, and if all goes well they return before 
long and hand their winnings over to the cook. This 
official, meanwhile, has collected the fire-wood and the 
old tin cans for frying and boiling the food. While 
the meal is cooking, the tramps sit around the fire on 
the stolen railroad-ties and compare jokes and experi- 
ences. Pretty soon dinner is announced, and they 
begin. They have no forks and often no knives, but 
that does not matter. '' Fingers were made before 
forks." Sometimes they sharpen little sticks and use 
them, but fingers are more popular. The table manners 
of the Eskimos compare favorably with those of these 
picnicking hoboes, and I have often seen a tramp eat 
meat in a way that would bring a dusky blush to 
the cheek of the primeval Alaskan. It is remarkable. 


What the Tramp Eats and Wears 151 

however, that no matter how carelessly they eat their 
food, they seldom have dyspepsia. I have known 
only a few cases, and even then the sufferers were 
easily cured. 

Supper is seldom much of a meal among hoboes, 
and mainly because it has to be looked for, during the 
greater part of the year, just about dark, the time 
when the hobo is either preparing his night's hang- 
out, or making arrangements for his night's journey, 
and the hunt for supper often occasions unpleasant 
delays. But he nevertheless looks for it if he can 
possibly spare the time. He considers it his bounden 
duty to eat regularly, and feels ashamed if he neglects 
to do it. I have heard him scold himself for an hour 
just because he failed to get a meal at the proper 
time, although he really did not care for it. Bohe- 
mian that he is, he still respects times and seasons, 
which is the more surprising since in other matters 
he is as reckless as a fool. In quarrels, for example, 
he regards neither sense nor custom, and has his own 
private point of view every time. But at the very 
moment that he is planning some senseless and useless 
fight, he will look for a meal as conscientiously as the 
laborer works for one, although he may not need it. 

For supper he usually has about what other people 
have— potatoes (usually fried) and beefsteak, tea or 
coffee, bread and butter, and some kind of sauce. For 
three months of my time on the road I had almost 
exactly this bill of fare, and became so accustomed to 
it that I was considerably surprised if I found any- 
thing else. I mention these various items to show 
how closely the tramp's '•'■ hot diet " resembles that of 

1^2 Tramping with Tramps 

most people. A great mistake is made in thinking 
that these men, as a class, have to eat things both 
uncommon and peculiar. Some of them do, but all of 
the set-downers eat about the same things that the 
respectable and worthy portion of the community- 

In Pennsylvania, the " f attenin'-up State," ^ or 
^^ P. A.," as the hobo calls it, apple-butter is his chief 
delicacy. I have seen him put it on his bread, meat, 
and potatoes, and one beggar that I knew wanted it 
" raw." I happened to be with this man one afternoon 
in the town of Bethlehem, and while we were sitting 
on a little bridge crossing the canal on the outskirts 
of the town, a Pennsylvania Dutchman hove in sight. 
My pal, being a beggar who liked to improve every 
opportunity, immediately said to me, in a professional 
sort of voice : 

" Keep quiet, Cig, ^n' I '11 tackle 'im." 

The man soon passed us, and the beggar followed. 
He caught up with him in a moment, and as I had 
also followed, I managed to overhear a part of the 
conversation. It was something like this : 

" I say, boss, can' cher gimme the price of a meal? " 

^' Nein ; dat kan ich nit." 

^' Well, can you take me home 'n' feed me?" 


1 It is most interesting to talk with Eastern tramps in the 
West who are homeward bound. If they have been in the West 
long, and look rather "seedy," and you ask them where they are 
going to in the East, they invariably reply : "Gosh! P. A., o' 
course. We wants to fatten up, we does." And there is no 
better place for this than Pennsylvania. 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 153 

" Well, say ; can' cher gimme a cigar ? " 

"Nein"— in anger. 

" Well, say,"— and he put his arm affectionately on 
the Dutchman's shoulder,— "let 's go 'n' have a drink. 


"Well, you old hoosier, you, can you gimme some 
apple-butter ? " 

Even the Dutchman laughed, but he said, " Nein." 

Besides the three meals which every hobo has regu- 
larly, there are also two or three lunches a day, which 
are included in the hot diet, although they practi- 
cally belong to the cold one. The first is taken in the 
morning about ten o'clock, and is begged at break- 
fast-time, the second about three or four o'clock, and 
the third late in the evening. Not all hoboes eat these 
between-meal " snacks," but the majority beg them at 
any rate, and if they do not need them they either 
throw them away or give them to some deserving per- 
son, often enough a seeker of work. For although the 
tramp hates labor, he does not hate the true laborer, 
and if he can help him along, lie does it willingly. 
He knows only too well that it is mainly the laboring- 
man off whom he lives, and that it is well to do him 
a good turn whenever it is possible. Then, too, the 
hobo is a generous fellow, no matter what else he is, 
and is alwaj^s willing to share his winnings with any 
one he really likes. With the gay-cat and the poke- 
outer he will have nothing to do, but with the criminal, 
his own pals, and the working-man he is always on 
good terms, unless they repel his overtures. 

As a number of tramps spend considerable time in 

154 Tramping with Tramps 

jails, it seems appropriate to tell what they eat there, 
also. Their life in limbo is often voluntary, for al- 
though a great many hoboes go South every winter, 
there are others who prefer a jail in the North, and 
so whatever hardship they encounter is mainly of 
their own choosing. And since some of them do 
choose jail fare, it is evident that those particular beg- 
gars find it less disagreeable than winter life ^^ out- 
side," either North or South. The usual food in these 
places is bread, molasses, and coffee in the morning, 
some sort of thick soup or meat and potatoes with 
bread for dinner, and bread and molasses and tea for 
supper. There is generally enough, also, and although 
I have often heard the tramps grumble, it was mainly 
because they had nothing else to do. Confinement in 
county prisons, although it has its diversions, tends 
to make a man captious and irritable, and the tramp 
is no exception to this. Occasionally he gets into a 
jail where only two meals a day are given, and he 
must then exercise his fortitude. He never intends to 
be in such a place, but mistakes will happen even in 
vagabondage, and it is most interesting to see how the 
tramp gets out of them or endures them. He usually 
grits his teeth and promises ^' never to do it again " ; 
and, considering his self-indulgent nature, I think he 
stands suffering remarkably well. 


What the hot-diet tramp wears is another matter, 
but a not vastly different one. His ambition, although 
he does not always achieve it, is to have new togs 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 155 

quite as regularly as the man who buys them with 
liard cash. He also tries to keep up with the fashions 
and the seasons as closely as possible. 

But all this must naturally be regulated by the 
charity of the community in which he happens to be. 
If he is near a college, and knows how to beg of the 
students, he can usually find just what and about all 
he needs; but if he is in a country district where 
clothes are worn down to the thread, he is in a hard 
case. As a rule, however, he dresses nearly as well 
as the day-laborer, and sometimes far better. There 
are tramps of this type in New York and Chicago 
whose dress is almost identical with that of the ma- 
jority of the men one meets in the streets, and to dis- 
tinguish them from the crowd requires an eye able to 
read their faces rather than their coats. Such men 
never allow their clothes to wear beyond a certain 
point before begging a fresh supply. And if they are 
careful, and do not ride in freight-trains often, a suit 
will last them several months, for they understand 
remarkably well how to take care of it. Every tramp 
of this order and grade carries a brush inside of his 
coat pocket, and uses it on the slightest provocation. 
On the road I also acquired this habit of brushing my 
clothes as often as they showed the slightest soil. It 
is a trick of the trade, and saves not only the clothes, 
but the self-respect of the brotherhood. 

Dark clothes are the most popular, because they 
keep clean, or at least appear clean, for a longer time. 
I once wore a suit of this kind for nearly three 
months, and although I used it rather roughly, it was 
so good at the end of that time that I traded it to a 

156 Tramping with Tramps 

tramp for a coat and vest almost new. The way to 
make sure of having a serviceable suit is to gather 
together several coats, vests, and trousers, and pick 
out a complement from the best and most suitable of 
the lot. 

I shall not forget an experience of this sort I had 
in a Western town. I had worked all day with my 
companion looking simply for clothes, and at night 
we had six coats, eight vests, four pairs of trousers, 
and two overcoats. Out of this collection we chose 
two fairly good suits, but the rest were so poor that 
we had to throw them away. One of the coats was a 
clergyman's, and when he gave it to me he said : " It 
may not fit you very well, but you can use it as an 
overcoat, perhaps." It was even then too large for 
me, and I gave it to the tramp, who wore it for nearly 
a month. His pals laughed at him and called liim 
'' Parson Jim " ; but he made more money with that 
coat than he could possibly have made in any other. 
He posed as a theological student among the farm- 
ers, and was most royally entertained. But his luck 
gave out in a short time, for he went to prison in his 
clerical habit not long after. 

Hoboes take most delight in what is called the sack- 
coat. ^'Tailed jackets" are inconvenient, especially 
when one is riding on the trucks of a train ; the skirts 
are liable to catch on something and thus delay mat- 
ters. It is the inside of a tramp s coat, however, that is 
most interesting. It is usually furnished with numer- 
ous pockets, one of them being called the ''poke-out 
pocket," in which he stows away his lunches. The 
others are used for brushes, tattooing-tools, combs, 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 159 

white rags, string, and other little notions that may 
'^come handy" to a traveler. But in none of the 
pockets will there ever be found one bit of paper 
which might identify the bearer or implicate him in 
any suspicious work. He is too " foxy " to ever allow 
his real name to crop out in any telltale evidence on 
his person, except, perhaps, when he may have been 
foolish enough to have it tattooed somewhere on his 

He is proudest of his hat and shoes, and with rea- 
son. The former is usually a soft black felt, but stiff 
hats are also ci la mode, and I have even seen a '' stove- 
pipe " on the road. It was unique, however, and the 
owner did a good business with it ; his '' clients " used 
to feed him simply on account of his oddity. The foot- 
gear consists generally of laced shoes, but boots have 
to be accepted now and then. Socks, although much 
in vogue, often yield to white-linen rags wound 
smoothly around the feet. This is particularly true 
among the tramps of Germany. They take long 
walks, and contend that socks chafe the feet too much. 
There is truth in this, and while I lived with them I 
followed their custom to the extent of wearing the 
rags next to my feet and then drawing the socks over 
them. And I was very little troubled with sore feet 
while I did so ; but for the one week when I tried to 
go without the rags I suffered considerably. 

Overcoats are worn by the hoboes who go South in 
winter, but tramps who spend the cold months in jail 
do not need them, and if they beg any, usually sell 
them. Underclothes in some form or other are worn 
all the time, not so much for warmth as for cleanU- 

i6o Tramping with Tramps 

ness. Even the cleanest hoboes cannot keep entirely 
free of vermin, and they wear underclothes to pro- 
tect their outer garments, changing the former as 
often as they can, and throwing away or burning the 
discarded pieces. The tramp's shirt is always of 
flannel, if he can find it, and very often he wears two, 
either for the sake of trade or to keep warm. Other 
garments are doubled also, and one finds men wearing 
two coats, two vests, and two pairs of trousers. It is 
by no means uncommon to see a tramp who wears 
linen and cotton shirts with two or three layers on 
his back. As one becomes soiled he throws it away, 
and so on till the three are discarded. 

There is one more indispensable article of a tramp's 
toilet, and it is called the '^ shaver." This is a razor 
incased in a little sack, generally leather, which he 
hangs around his neck with a string. It is used for 
fighting and shaving, and is very good as a " guy " for 
getting him into jail. I saw how this was done one 
day in western Pennsylvania. The time was late Octo- 
ber, and three tramps who came into town decided that 
the local jail would be a good place in which to spend 
the winter. They wanted a ninety-day sentence, and 
knew they could not get it for simple drunkenness ; 
so they decided to pretend drunk and make a row in 
order to be sentenced on two charges. They began 
their brawl in the main street, and flourished their 
razors in good style. The officers arrested them after 
a little fight made for appearance' sake, and the judge 
gave them four months— thirty days more than they 
expected. Their razors were confiscated, too, but they 
got others the minute they were released. It some- 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 161 

times happens, however, that the shavers are not dis- 
covered, because the men are riot properly searched, 
and, owing to this lack of careful inspection by offi- 
cials, rows in jails have often ended seriously. 


A FRIEND at my elbow, to whom vagabondage is a 
terra incognita^ remarks just at this juncture: ''You 
ought to tell just how the tramp gets his three set- 
down meals a day." 

I can scarcely believe that in our own country there 
is any ignorance in regard to this matter. The house 
in the settled districts that has not been visited by 
the tramp in search of one of his three meals seems 
to me not to exist. But if anybody needs enlighten- 
ment on this point, the following incident will be of 

One June day, some years ago, I strolled into the 
hang-out in a little town in Michigan just as the bells 
were ringing for dinner. I was a stranger in the place, 
and as I wanted to find my dinner as quickly as possi- 
ble, in order to make a " freight " that was due about 
two o'clock, I asked one of the tramps at the camp 
whether he knew of any "mark" (a house where 
something is always given to beggars) in the town. 

'' Well, there ain't many," he replied. '' Town 's too 
small and the people 's too relijus. The best is that 
big college building up there on the hill, but they ain't 
always willin' even there. They go by fits. "If they 's 
in the mood, they feeds you, 'n' 'f they ain't, they sicks 
the dog on you -, an' it takes a pretty foxy bloke to 

i62 Tramping with Tramps 

know what moods they is in. I struck 'em onc't when 
I felt dead sure they was in the k'rect one, 'n', by the 
hoky-poky, I had to look fer a new coat 'for' I left 
the town— blasted mean dog they got there. But 
there 's another place not far from the old red 
buildin' where any bloke kin scoff if he gives the 
right song 'n' dance. It 's No. 13 Grove Street. 
Great ole squaw lives there— feeds everybody she 
kin; sort o' bughouse [crazy] on the subject, you 
know— likes to talk 'bout her Sammy, 'n' all that sort 
o' stuff. Dead cinch, she is. Better hit her up 'n' 
take a feed. Yer bound to get a good ole set-down." 

I followed his advice, and was soon at the back door 
of No. 1 3 Grove Street. In answer to my knock there 
appeared a motherly-looking old lady who wanted to 
know what she could do for me. What a tale I told 
her ! And how kind she looked as I related my sad 
experiences as a young fellow trying to work his way 
to a distant town, where he hoped to find friends who 
would help him into college ! 

" Come right in ; we are just at table." Then she 
called to her daughter Dorothy, a pretty lass, and told 
her to lay a plate for a stranger. She and the girl 
were the only persons in the house, and I was sur- 
prised that they took me in so willingly. Women, 
as a rule, are afraid of tramps, and prefer to feed them 
on the back steps. But I had evidently found an 
exception, for when I had washed my hands and face 
and combed my hair on the little porch, I was in- 
vited into the cozy dining-room and offered a place 
beside the hostess. How odd it seemed! I almost 
felt at home, and had to be on my guard to keep up 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 163 

my role as a vagabond. For it was certainly a 
temptation to relieve myself then and there, and have 
an old-time chat on respectable lines. I had been so 
long on the road that I was really in need of some 
such comfort, but I dared not take advantage of it. 
So I answered their questions about my home, my 
parents, and my plans as professionally as I could, 
and spun my story, not entirely of fiction, however, 
and they smiled or looked solemn as the occasion 
fitted. They seemed to take a great interest in my 
doings, and always had a word of sympathy or advice 
for predicaments which I fabricated. And how they 
fed me ! My plate was not once empty, and I ate and 
ate simply out of respect to their politeness. When I 
had finished they both asked me to rest awhile before 
taking up my journey again ; so I sat in their inter- 
esting little sitting-room, and listened to their talk, 
and answered their questions. Pretty soon, and evi- 
dently thinking that it would help me to know about 
him, the mother began to tell me of a lad of hers whom 
she had not seen for several years, and as she fancied 
that he might possibly have traveled my way, she 
asked if I had met him. I wanted to tell her that 
I had, if only to give her a mite of comfort, but I 
knew that it would be more cruel than the truth, and 
I said " I was afraid we had not met." Then she spoke 
of certain features of face that we had in common, 
and asked the girl if she did not think so. 

"Yes," Dorothy replied, "he reminds me of Sam- 
just about the same build, too." 

I could not stand this, and told them I must be on 
my way. As I was leaving, the old lady asked me not 

164 Tramping with Tramps 

to be offended if she gave me a little book. '^Of 
course not," I replied, and she fetched me a conven- 
tional little tract about a prodigal son. I thanked her, 
and then she advised me to visit a certain lawyer in 
the town, who, she said, was in need of a helper, and 
there I might find a chance for an education with- 
out looking farther. And as if to prove my right to 
such employment, while standing on the porch at her 
side, she laid her motherly hand on my head, and said 
to Dorothy, with a smile on her kindly face : 

''The lad has an intelligent head— something like 
Sam's. Don't you think so ? " 

Both looked sadly and solemnly in earnest, and I 
stole away, hoping never to see them again until 
I should know where their Sam might be found. I 
have looked for him on many a road since that June 
day, alw^ays with the determination that no other 
" wandering boy " should hear from me of this kind 
mother's hospitality, and I hope they have him now, 
for they certainly deserve surcease of sorrow on his 

There are people like this in every town, and it is 
the tramp's talent to find them, and "when found 
make a note on." He thus becomes a peripatetic 
directory for the tramp world, which lives on the 
working world at a cost which it is worth while to 


That tramps are expensive no one will deny, but how 
much so it is difficult to decide. I have tried to show 
that a large number of them eat and wear things 

What the Tramp Eats and Wears 165 

which certainly cost somebody considerable money, 
but a careful census of the vagabond population alone 
can estimate the amount. No one can tell exactly 
what this tramp population numbers, but I think it 
safe to say that there are not less than sixty thousand 
in this country. Every man of this number, as a 
rule, eats something twice a day, and the majority eat 
three good meals. They all wear some sort of cloth- 
ing, and most of them rather respectable clothing. 
They all drink liquor, probably each one a glass of 
whisky a day. They all get into jail, and eat and 
drink there just as much at the expense of the com- 
munity as elsewhere. They all chew and smoke to- 
bacco, and all of them spend some of their time in 
lodging-houses. How much all this represents in 
money I cannot tell, but I believe that the expenses 
I have enumerated, together with the costs of convic- 
tion for vagrancy, drunkenness, and crime, will easily 
mount up into the millions. And all that the country 
can show for this expenditure is an idle, homeless, and 
useless class of individuals called tramps. 




I. Life among German Tramps 
II. With the Russian Goriouns 

III. Two Tramps in England . 

IV. The Tramp at Home . 

V. The Tramp and the Eailroads 




. 229 

. 267 

. 291 



WILLIAM II of Germany is the ruler of about 
fifty millions of people. A smaU fraction 
comprises the nobility, while the great majority are 
commoners, and the rest, about one hundred thousand, 
are roving beggars. His Imperial Majesty is prob- 
ably weU acquainted with his nobles, and he thinks 
that he understands the commoners, but the tramp 
who passes his castle now and then is a foreigner at 
home. Yet he is found in every city, town, and vil- 
lage, and there is hardly a home in the empire which 
he has not visited. He tramps the public highways 
as freely and fearlessly as the laborer, and rides on the 
royal railways as boldly as a king. His business in 
life is to prey upon the credulity of the charitable, and 
to steal when the eye of the law is not on watch. In 
spite, however, of all this publicity, comparatively 
little is known of his real life and character. Various 
books and pamphlets have been written about him, 
but they have usually been grounded on second-hand 
information, as I have looked in vain for any account 
of a personal study of tramp life. 


lyo Tramping with Tramps 

Being desirous of knowing the real facts in the case, 
I at first supplemented my reading by various conver- 
sations with beggars as they lounged around near my 
home in Berlin, and occasionally invited some of the 
more intelligent into my study, and plied them as 
cleverly as possible with all sorts of questions. But 
they invariably fooled me, and told the most romantic 
of tales, believing, probably, that they were what I 
wanted. Time after time I have said to them, " Oh, 
come now, give over this story-telling, and let me have 
something that is really true." But they seemed un- 
able to comprehend my purposes, and, true to their 
national traits, it was not in them to take part in any 
scheme which they could not understand. How to 
get at what I desired was the question. I called at 
the Bureau of Statistics, hoping surely to find here 
carefully tabulated statistics of vagrancy j but I was 

Dr. Berthold,^ who kindly told me all he knew, said 
that Pastor von Bodelschwingh was the man who had 
made the best census of trampdom, and he had claimed 
that there were 200,000 arrests in Germany each year 
for begging; that 100,000 of them represented irre- 
claimable vagabonds, 80,000 bona-fide seekers of work, 
and the remaining 20,000 the maximum number of 
reclaimable beggars. Dr. Berthold continued : " The 
only way to know the entire truth about the tramp is 
to live with him. I had the intention to do this my- 
self, but I delayed it too long, and now I am too old." 
He was very kind and gave me some valuable hints, 

1 Dr. Berthold is a well-known statistician, writer, and au- 
thority on matters pertaining to German labor colonies. 

Life among German Tramps 171 

but admitted that nothing very definite was known 
about the wandering beggar. 

I finally decided to give up these fruitless investi- 
gations, and to become a tramp myself in order to 
achieve my ends. I felt fairly equipped for such an 
undertaking, having had a two years' residence in 
Germany, and having also played the tramp in my 
own country. My plan, however, was not to study 
the enforced vagrant, but rather the man who wanders 
because he desires to, and prefers begging to working. 
And in that which follows I have attempted to de- 
scribe my experiences with voluntary beggars only. 

Early in April I made ready for the journey. My 
outfit was a close copy of the fashions in trampdom, 
my clothes being both old and easy to bear. I took no 
pass with me, because, in the first place, I could not 
get a German pass, and, secondly, I was anxious to 
find out just what experiences an unidentified man 
must go through. If I were to repeat the experiment 
I should do differently. Having decided to begin my 
investigations in Magdeburg, there being various 
reasons why I should not play the beggar in Berlin, 
I left my home on the date mentioned, and hurried 
through the streets to the railroad-station, where I in- 
vested a few groschen in a fourth-class ticket. My 
first afternoon was consequently spent in what very 
closely resembles the common American freight-car, 
except that it is windowed and occasionally has planks 
braced against the sides to serve as seats. The floor, 
however, or a piece of baggage, is the more customary 
resting-place. A ride in this miserable box costs two 
pfennigs the kilometer, and the passengers are natu- 

172 Tramping with Tramps 

rally of the lower order of travelers, including the 
tramps, who make almost as much use of fourth-class 
privileges as our own vagrants do of the freight-trains. 
My companions on the first trip were a queer lot. 
In one end of the car was a band playing the vilest 
music for the few sechser (five-pfennig pieces) occa- 
sionally thrown down to them. Their only rival was 
a little tambourine girl, who danced and rattled her 
noisy instrument as if her life depended upon her 
agility, as no doubt it did. The other travelers were 
market-women, laborers, and journeymen, and a fel- 
low called Peasant Carl, who was more of a tramp 
than anything else, in spite of the fact that he had a 
trade. We were soon talking on various subjects, and 
it was not difficult to lead the conversation to the sub- 
ject of tramp life. Carl was considerably surprised 
to find that an American should be auf der Walze 
(on the road), and needed some proof ere he was con- 
vinced that I was a roadster. My old clothes and 
general forlorn condition were not sufficient, and I 
was compelled to tell him a story. Once satisfied on 
this point, he turned out to be a good friend, and 
among other valuable facts that he generously gave 
me were scraps from the German tramp vocabulary, 
which h-e said might "come handy," since I was a 
stranger. I found that Kimde, or customer, was the 
general word for vagrant, but as the term vaguely 
covers the thousands of traveling journej^men in the 
community also, another term has been invented for 
the genuine tramp, none other than Chausseegraben- 
tapezirer, or upholsterer of the highway ditches. What 
could be more genuinely, deliciously German ? 

Life among German Tramps 175 

As this dialect is rather unique, and as different 
from the German language proper as black from 
white, I am tempted to give a few more words, tabu- 
lating them, for comparison's sake, alongside their 
American equivalents : 

German American 

Tramp Tramp 

English. German. Dialect. Dialect. 

Bread Das Brod Der Kramp .... Punk. 

Water Das Wasser Der Gansewein 

To beg Betteln Abklappen To Batter. 

To walk Laufen Tibbeln To Drill. 

Policeman Der Schutzmann Der Putz The Bull. 

Gendarmes .... Gendarmes Der Deckel .... 

Village Das Dorf Der Kaff Jerktown. 

Whisky-flask . . . Die Schnappsflasche Die Finne The Grow- 
Passport Der Reise-Pass Die Flebbe 

Hunger Der Hunger Der Kohldampf . 

This vocabulary will give a fair idea of the dialect. 
It is much more complete than the American, afford- 
ing, as it does, ample means whereby entire secrecy 
can be secured in public places. It is spoken by both 
Handiver'ksburschen and tramps, and it is my opinion 
that the former were not the originators, as is some- 
times averred, but have rather acquired a fair know- 
ledge of it by associating j^-ear after year, on the road, 
with beggars. 

On my arrival in Magdeburg, my friend Carl sug- 
gested that we go to Die Herberge zur Heimath, a 
lodging-house somewhat above the common grade, 
where we could at least have our supper, but where 
I could not lodge, having no pass. This institution 

176 Tramping with Tramps 

must be distinguished from the ordinary Herberge, or 
low-class lodging-house, and has a history worth more 
than a passing paragraph. It is a sort of refined edi- 
tion of the Salvation Army ^'shelter/' and was founded 
on religious and humanitarian principles by Professor 
Perthes of Bonn, whose first enterprise of the kind 
at Bonn has been so widely copied that at least three 
hundred towns of Germany now furnish this comfort- 
able and respectable refuge to the traveling apprentice 
or journeyman, and, if he will conform to its usages 
and requirements, to the tramp also. 

Entering the main room of the Heimath, I was sur- 
prised to see Carl rap on a table and the men sitting 
at the same to follow suit. I found out later that this 
meant '^ Hello," and that the after knock indicated 
"All right." Shaking hands is also a customary 
greeting in German trampdom, but hardly ever in 
American vagrancy. Tramps also call one another 
" brother," and use the pronoun " thou " invariably in 
preference to ''you." The inmates of the Heimath, I 
soon found, were drawn from three classes. First, 
the apprentice making his first journey, and usually 
a very stupid fellow. The tramp was here also, but 
only, I think, to prey upon the Handwerksbursche, for 
no whisky is sold on the premises, and prayers are 
held morning and evening, a custom which all true 
roadsters despise. The rest were men fairly well on 
in life, who work occasionally and beg the remainder 
of the time. I counted altogether sixteen recognized 
beggars (Chausseegrabentapezirer), but made no 
attempt to make their acquaintance, having decided 
not to study them in foreign quarters, but to seek 

Life among German Tramps 177 

them in their real homes. For Die Herberge zur 
Heimath is not a tramps' nest, although some Germans 
think so, and as soon as I had had a fair supper, for 
which I paid three cents, I left with Carl for another 
domicile. We were not long in finding the Herberge 
proper, or perhaps improper, where life is seen in all 
its dirtiest phases. Entering the common meeting- 
room, and saluting as usual, we sat down at a table 
where there were other tramps also. I was immedi- 
ately asked: '^Wo kommst Du her? Wo willst Du 
hin ? Was hast Du f iir Geschaf t ? " I answered these 
questions as cleverly as I could, and was soon deep 
in various conversations. Before I had been talking 
long, I made the acquaintance of a beggar belonging 
to the class called Kommando-ScMeber. These fel- 
lows beg usually within very small districts, and know 
every house that is ^^ good " for a meal or a pfennig. 
My newly made friend was kind enough to instruct 
both Carl and me in regard to Magdeburg. 

''This town is rather heiss [unfriendly]," said he, 
" but if you look out and beg very carefully you can 
get along. A great trick here now is to tip the Por- 
tier of good houses, and thus get the pull on every flat 
in the building. You Ve got to look out for the PufZj 
though, for if you 're caught, you 're sure for twenty- 
four hours in the Kasten [prison]. Another scheme 
that works pretty well with us fellows who know the 
town is to send around begging letters. You can 
easily make quite a Stoss [haul] if you work the plan 
well. Still, it 's risky for strangers. If you 're going 
to stay here long, you 'd better make friends with the 
Herbergsvater. He 's a pretty good Kerl [fellow], and 

lyS Tramping with Tramps 

if you let him know that you 've got a little money, 
he '11 look out for you when the Putz makes his in- 
spection now and then. There 's nothing, you know, 
like standing in with them that are Mug [clever J, and 
you can bet that fellow is. . . . What do you say to 
a schnapps, brother f " 

He had earned his drink, for he gave me a great 
many hints which were necessary to successful beg- 
ging. One of them was about getting a pass. '' Now, 
if you can scrape a little coin together," he said, '' I '11 
tell you how to get a Flebbe that no Putz can find 
out whether it 's forged or not. You see that fellow 
over there near the window— well, he looks like a fool, 
but if you can give him five marks, he '11 get you a 
WanderhucJi that '11 pass you anywhere. But don't 
go at him too clumsily, you know ; take the matter 
easy. Nothing like taking your time, brother, is 
there ? " I agreed that this was orthodox tramp doc- 
trine, and determined to think the matter over, which 
I did, and came to the conclusion that I might eventu- 
ally get into more trouble with a false pass than with- 
out any. And later experience approved the decision. 

My first night in this tramp-nest was one I shall 
never forget. I slept with an old beggar in a bed long 
since given over to other lodgers, who fought us that 
night as if we were Frenchmen. And the stench in 
the sleeping-room was similar to that in a pigsty. 
Any complaint, however, would have been useless, for 
the price paid was only three cents, and for that sum 
of money one could not expect very much. Then, too, 
the host asked for no Legitimations-Papier, and this 
was an advantage which must be set over against 


Life among German Tramps 181 

most of the annoyances. Nevertheless, I was glad 
enough to turn out early in the morning and look for 
a breakfast, which was soon found, but thoroughly 
European in quantity. Carl continued begging even 
after his breakfast, while I remained in the lodging- 
house talking with some of the inmates. I was sur- 
prised to see how fairly well dressed the German 
tramp is. The men in the Herberge were clad much 
more respectably than their American confrere^ and 
seemed to have a desire to appear as decent as possi- 
ble. Their intelligence was also very fair, every one 
being able to read and write as well as cipher. This, 
however, is not so surprising, for they were by no 
means young. It is my opinion that the majority of 
German tramps are over thirty years of age. There 
are some boys on the road, it is true, but by no means 
the number found in American trampdom. And I am 
happy to say that my experience convinces me that 
their treatment by the elder men is much more humane 
than in my own country. There is not in the German 
that viciousness which seems ingrained in the char- 
acter of the American vagrant. The latter is a more 
generous fellow, however, than the German, as I 
learned by practical experience. When some of the 
tramps returned to the Herberge in the afternoon, I 
tried their good fellowship by asking several for a 
sechser with which to buy a cup of coffee. I offered 
my very sore foot as an excuse for not having myself 
begged. But they were not touched in the slightest. 
One fellow said : " If you can't beg your own money, 
why, you 'd better get off the road, for no other 
Chausseegrabentapezirer will hustle for you." An 

i82 Tramping with Tramps 

American beggar would, as a rule, have handed me a 
penny, if he had it. But these men sat drinking their 
beer, schnapps, and coffee, utterly incapable, at least 
then, of a bit of brotherly charity. They had plenty 
of money, too. During the day nearly every one had 
begged from ninety pfennigs to one mark twenty, 
while Carl returned about five o'clock with three 
marks in hand. 

I think the usual wage for diligent begging is be 
tween one mark fifty and four marks, in addition to 
the three meals. Of course there are a few who are 
much more successful. One fellow at the Herberge, 
for instance, who had been in England and could 
speak English quite well, claimed that he begged forty 
marks in one week during the previous winter from 
the Americans in Dresden. 

Another vagrant told a story of a man he had met 
in South Germany on the road with two hundred 
marks in his pocket, which he had collected in two 
weeks in Munich. It is a great amusement for the 
tramp off duty to figure out the possibilities of his 
calling, and to illustrate the same with stories. There 
was one beggar in the room who even kept an ac- 
count of his mcome and expenses. I saw the record 
for March, and found that his gains had been ninety- 
three marks and a few pfennigs, not including the 
meals which he had had in various kitchens where the 
servants were friendly. I must say right here, how- 
ever, that such success is found only in cities. For I 
sampled the charity of the country time after time, 
and it is worth a bare living only, or, as Carl was 
wont to say, '^ One can't get fat on it.'' 

Life among German Tramps 183 

We were convinced of this as soon as we had left 
Magdeburg and started afoot for Brunswick. Carl 
begged in every village that we passed through, but 
he could seldom get more than twenty or twenty-five 
pfennigs, with numerous slices of bread. I made no 
attempt to beg money, but visited several houses and 
asked for food, so that my companions might not sus- 
pect me. I was fairly well treated, at least quite as 
charitably as I would have been in the United States, 
and I think that, taking the country as a whole, the 
rewards of begging in Germany are much higher than 
in either England or America. The people seem bound 
to give, although they have had beggars among them 
for centuries. 

My second night on the road was quite as interest- 
ing as the first. I had stopped with Carl and two 
other men in a little village not far from Brunswick, 
where there was no Herberge, and only one inn, or 
Gastliaus, as it was called. We asked the woman in 
charge if we could lodge there for the night, but she was 
by no means friendly, saying we were unclean. She 
told us to go to the barn, where we could sleep for a 
groschen apiece. As there was nothing better to do, we 
followed her instructions, and spent the night, which 
was cold for April, on some bundles of straw. I was 
fairly well repaid for this unpleasant experience by 
the various conversations which I overheard. One 
tramp was philosophizing in a maundering way over 
his life on the road, and what first brought him there. 
He reasoned that as he was born lazy, the blame 
should be put on his parents, but he finally concluded 
that the Schnappsflasclie also had had a hand in the 

184 Tramping with Tramps 

business. Another companion said : '^ Why should I 
work, when I can beg more than 1 can possibly earn ? 
NoWj if I should follow my trade I could earn about 
eighteen marks a week. But as a beggar I can bea,t 
that by ten marks. No, brother ; it is n't all the blame 
of the Schnappsflasche that we 're on the road. I, for 
one, am here because I can do better than anywhere 
else. Is n't that so ? " And he nudged me for an an- 

" Well," I said, ^' we lads on the road seem to have 
more money than most laborers, but we seldom have 
a decent place to lay our heads. For instance, what 
sort of place is this we 're in now ? " 

^^ Yes, that 's true," he returned ; '^ but then we 're 
never sick, always happy, and perhaps we 're just as 
well off as anybody else. You forget that we never 
work, and that 's a great thing in our favor. Those 
lads who have their homes have to work for them, 
and don't you forget it. It 's my opinion that the 
home is n't worth the labor." 

I think this latter opinion is very general in Ger- 
man vagrancy, and is one of its main causes. Liquor, 
however, is just as much of a curse in Germany as 
elsewhere, and brings more men into trampdom than 
is usually estimated. The Schnappsflasche is in nearly 
every tramp's pocket, and he usually empties it twice 
a day. It is a wonder to me how he can do it, for the 
schnapps is almost pure alcohol, and burns the throat 
terribly. Yet I found jast outside of Brunswick a 
female tramp, nearly sixty years of age, who could 
empty Die Finne in a single " go," and seemed healthy 
too. This woman was the only feminine roadster I 

Life among German Tramps 185 

met during the journey, and I think she is one of the 
very few. 

About noon of April 14 I arrived in Brunswick with 
Carl, who was on his way to Bremen, where he in- 
tended shipping as a coal-trimmer to New York, if 
possible. He was disgusted with Germany, he said, 
and felt that America was the only place for his ner- 
vous activity. He was somewhat surprised, however, 
as I was too, to find in Brunswick three American 
negroes who seemed to think quite the contrary of 
their country. One was an '^ actor," and the other two 
were ex- waiters, and they were traveling about tlie 
community and getting their living by dancing and 
singing in the streets and saloons. Charley, the actor, 
said : " We 're doin' pretty well ; have our three 
squares a day, and all the booze we want. Can't do 
better than that at home." I explained this to Carl, as 
none of the negroes spoke German ; but he could not 
be convinced that gold was not lying loose in the 
streets of American cities. In the afternoon his 
hatred of Germany was not quite so intense, as he 
begged a mark and a half in about two hours. One 
man that he visited was a member of ''The Society 
against Begging and Vagrancy," and had a sign to 
that effect on his gate-post; but Carl found him, it 
seems, a generous Samaritan. This interested me 
considerabty, for I had heard good reports of this 
society and its members, as well as of its success in 
fighting vagabondage. I asked several fellows what 
they thought of the organization. One tramp claimed 
that he always visited its members,— at least, those 
having signs on their gates,— for he was quite as apt 

i86 Tramping with Tramps 

to be well treated as not. Others were drastic in their 
criticisms, and said that the society would let a man 
starve rather than feed him. Carl, I think, was about 
right when he said that some members of the society 
fed vagrants, and some did not, and it was all accord- 
ing to chance. 

From Brunswick a crowd of tramps, including my- 
self, rode in a fourth-class car to a little station called 
Peine, in the direction of Hanover. A few of the men 
remained here in order to take in the Verpflegung- 
Station until the next day. This station, of which 
there are about two thousand in Germany, is a place 
where a man professing to be penniless can have a 
night's lodging, together with supper and breakfast, 
for a few hours' work. I moved on toward Hanover 
with fifteen other men who were bound in the same 
direction. They all had money, and no love for the 
Verpflegung-Station. We tramped along at a pace of 
about five kilometers to the hour— the usual gait of 
tramps when they are compelled to use the highways. 
They can beg food enough on the road, and thus the 
walking is not so disagreeable, for the German roads 
are superb. 

At one little village where we stopped for refresh- 
ments the crowd took the place by storm, and the peo- 
ple were actually frightened into giving us bread and 
meat. It is true that the men were rather violent 
and used threatening language, yet there was no need 
to fear them, as they could hardly have attempted 
to do any great harm. For the German tramp, as a 
rule, though a great talker and ^^ blower," is a coward, 
after all, and when answered rather roughly usually 

Life among German Tramps 189 

subsides. At the village of Lehrte we again boarded 
a train, and rode into Hanover late in the evening. 
Some of my companions went to the Heimath, but the 
majority hunted out the common Herberge, and I fol- 
lowed the crowd. I was treated in the same fashion 
as at Magdeburg, and was asked no questions about a 
pass. There was great excitement in the Herberge 
over several little auctions, which the tramps were 
conducting for their own benefit. Some had coats, 
vests, and trousers to sell, while others were crying up 
the virtue of old buttons, collars, cuffs, neckties, and 
even pocket-books, the latter being found in almost 
every tramp's pocket. He finds them companionable, 
he says, whether he has any money or not. Several 
coats sold for five and ten cents apiece, while trousers 
brought higher prices. Knives were also on the 
market, and fully a dozen changed hands. I was 
struck in these auctions by the absence of Jews. In 
fact, I met only three during the trip, and they were 
extremely well dressed. I fancy that a tramp's life 
hardly offers inducements to men of their predilections. 
Yet one would think that no work and a fair reward 
for begging might satisfy even their trading propen- 

The trip from Hanover to Bremen was uninterest- 
ing, with only one incident worth recording. Five of 
us stopped on Easter night at one of the large bonfires 
that the peasants had built, just outside of Hanover, 
to commemorate the great holiday. When we arrived 
they were carousing most jovially, and seemed only too 
glad to welcome other companions; so we all took 

part, and danced around the fire, sometimes with the 

igo Tramping with Tramps 

peasant girls, and then again by ourselves or singly. 
The peasants took no notice of the fact that we were 
tramps, and shared their sour milk and brown bread 
with us as if we were their best friends. One old fel- 
low took such a fancy to Carl that he actually gave 
him a sechser. I was surprised to see him accept it, 
for the old man needed it much more than he did. 
This illustrates very truthfully the utter lack of 
friendly consideration in the character of the German 
tramp. One of the American species would have re- 
turned the penny with thanks, for he is a generous 
fellow, and can appreciate other interests than his own. 
But the Chausseegrabentapezirer has the least tender 
feeling of any beggar of my acquaintance. Even as 
a boon companion he falls far below the standard, and 
would never be tolerated in American trampdom. I 
can now understand why the great majority of Ger- 
man beggars in America are compelled to " flock ^' by 
themselves, and to choose companions from their own 
ranks. Their selfishness bars them out of the true 

In Bremen poor Carl suffered a keen disappoint- 
ment. He found that he could not ship as a coal- 
trimmer without a pass permitting him to leave the 
country. I advised him to seek work, and to earn 
money enough to pay his passage to New York. His 
trade was not overcrowded, and he had had a chance 
to labor in nearly every town we had visited, and I 
knew that he could succeed in Bremen. He finally 
decided to follow my advice ; but the resolution weak- 
ened him so that I fear for a week at least he was a 
sorry-looking fellow. When we separated, he said, 

Life among German Tramps 191 

'' Auf Wiedersehen in Sheekago in '93." Indeed, nearly 
every tramp that I met intended to cross the ocean in 
'93, and to take part in Germany's exhibit at the fair. 
Of course they did not all succeed, but some most 
certainly did. 

While I was sitting in the Heimath in Bremen, who 
should come in but a policeman and a detective. 
They passed around among the laborers, journeymen, 
and vagrants, asking a few questions, and looking 
occasionally at the men's passes. I was in somewhat 
of a tremor, and expected to be quizzed also. But, 
as luck would have it, they passed me by, and I es- 
caped a searching. They arrested one tramp, but he 
was the only unfortunate I met during my travels. 
I learned afterward that he was sentenced to two 
days' imprisonment. An American beggar would have 
told the judge that he could stand on his head that 
long, but the German took it more seriously. From 
Bremen I decided to go south, and compare my ex- 
periences in northern Germany with tramp life in 
the vicinity of Cologne. I left Bremen with seven 
men on the train, and traveled the first day as far as 
Osnabriick, where I made an unnecessary halt, for I 
found nothing new or interesting there. There were 
plenty of tramps, it is true, but they had no news to 
impart, except that Osnabriick was a poor town. One 
youngster could hardly say enough against its hospi- 
tality. He claimed that he had even begged of the 
clergymen, and all that he received were '' a few pal- 
try pfennigs." I must admit that the boy was not far 
from correct in his judgment, for I visited several 
houses, and all I got was a dry piece of bread, which 

192 Tramping with Tramps 

was given me by an old woman wiser than she was 
generous. Learning that I was a foreigner, she must 
needs know all about my ancestors, where I had come 
from, and where I was going. And then she made 
me listen to a long account of her boy in Piper City, 
—she was not sure whether it was in North or South 
America, — and asked me if I had ever met him. I told 
her that I had not, and she was nearly dumfounded. 
She thought that in the United States, "where there 
were so few people," everybody should know everybody 
else. I left her to her surprise and chagrin. 

The city of Mtinster was my next stopping-place, 
and a greater contrast to Osnabriick could hardly 
exist. At the Herberge I learned that the town was 
considered one of the best between Hamburg and 
Cologne. The evidence was certainly convincing, for 
the tramps had all the liquor they could drink, as 
well as numerous bundles of food. Two fellows were 
doing a good business in exchanging their bread and 
Wurst (sausage) for groschen which others had begged 
instead of something to eat. I invested a few sechser 
in these wares, and was most bountifully repaid, re- 
ceiving half a loaf of bread and two good-sized sau- 
sages for two and a half cents of our currency. This 
custom is very prevalent in German trampdom, and 
will illustrate the machinery of vagrancy. Some men 
will beg only for food, while others devote most of 
their lives to looking for money, and in almost any 
Herberge, even in the Heimath, these two parties can 
be found trading as if they were in a market. They 
scold, "jew," and fight one another while the trade is 
progressing, but when the bargain is finished good 

Life among German Tramps 195 

fellowship is again resumed. The joviality in the 
Herberge after the "market" was as boisterous and 
companionable as if there had not been the slightest 
trouble. Even the innkeeper took part, and danced 
around the room with his guests as if he were as much 
of a tramp as any of them. I think he had been a 
roadster sometime in his life, for he entered into the 
schemes and plans as earnestly as the law allows. 
Some of the men were discussing the number of chari- 
table families in Mtinster, and more especially those 
'^ good " for money. One man, in order to make his 
point, enumerated by name the families friendly to 
beggars. The innkeeper, not agreeing with him, gave 
his own census of the Miinster people, and it was 
most interesting to hear from his lips just what citi- 
zens were worth visiting and what not. Having 
conducted a tramp hotel in the city for years, he had 
found it to his interests to gather and dispense in- 
formation useful to his customers. He could tell 
exactly what house was ''good" for a meal or a 
hand-out, and could also map out the districts sure 
to yield pfennigs, groschen, or half-mark pieces. It is 
needless to say that such a man is invaluable to beg- 
gars. They hold him dearer than any other member 
of the clan, and pay him most liberally for his wis- 
dom by spending nearly all of their money in his inn. 
This they can afford to do, for without his information 
and protection they would encounter hardships and 
difficulties insurmountable. During my stay at the 
Herberge, the proprietor sent out as many as eight 
fellows to different parts of the town, well posted and 
equipped for successful begging. Three of these men 

196 Tramping with Tramps 

returned while I was still there, having averaged three 
marks and a half apiece in about five hours. If they 
had worked for this length of time their wage would 
have been about one mark apiece. 

The journey from Miinster to Diisseldorf is so tire- 
some afoot, and there is so little of interest lying be- 
tween the towns, that I made the trip by rail, with 
three companions bound for Bavaria. These men had 
been tramping around in northern Prussia for nearly 
two months, and were thoroughly disgusted with their 
experiences. This was not surprising, however, for 
the Bavarian as well as the Saxon tramps think there 
is no prosperity outside of their own provinces, and, 
wander as much as they may in foreign parts, usually 
return to their own fields, feeling that they made a 
mistake in leaving. Begging in these provinces is 
also much more remunerative than anywhere else in 
Germany. Even the religion in Bavaria favors men- 
dicancy, and it is only necessary to stand on a Sunday 
morning in front of some church to make a very fair 
haul. The tramps loaf around in the neighborhood 
of the churches and stossen (tackle) the poor Catholics 
as they pass in and out, usually getting a pfennig at 
least. One old roadster, thankful that he had lost a 
leg in the war of 1870, was unusually successful ; but 
I heard afterward that he had been in the city for 
years, and probably the people take care of him as 
a sort of relic. He was rather clever, too, and had 
formed some sage opinions on charity and poverty. 
['■ The poor people," he said, " are the best friends we 
have. They give ten times where the rich man gives 
once." This is an indisputable fact. 

Life among German Tramps 197 

In Cologne, where I arrived on April 21, the tramps 
were planning trips into southern Germany, Switzer- 
land, and the Tyrol. I had intended to make at least 
one of these excursions, but I was tired, nauseated, 
and homesick. I made quick work with the towns of 
Elberfeld, Essen, Barmen, and Dortmund, and once 
settled down in Berlin, with almanac and gazetteer 
before me, found I had been fifteen days aufder Walze, 
had traveled over one thousand kilometers, studied 
more than seventy towns and villages, and met three 
hundred and forty-one voluntarj^ vagrants, all of them, 
however, less voluntary than I. 

The German tramp, if these experiences justify me 
in judging him, is a fairly intelligent fellow of not 
more than average tramp education, more stupid and 
less vicious than his American confrere, and with the 
traits of his nationality well stamped upon him. He 
is cautious, suspicious to a degree, ungenerous, but 
fairly just and square-dealing in the company of 
his fellows. He is too much of a Bohemian to be a 
Social Democrat, but has not enough patriotism to be 
easily fired with enthusiasm for his Kaiser. He loves 
schnapps and hates what he calls the verdammte 
HeiUglceit such as Die Herberge zur Heimath seeks 
to cultivate. He has generally served his three years 
in the army, but will dodge the recruiting officer by 
skipping his country whenever possible, if he has not. 
Besides this pervasive lack of patriotism, he has 
other dangers for the country. In the February 
riots in Berlin (1891) he was out in force, not for 
labor rights as against capital, but lending his shoul- 
der to the wheel which he fondly hoped might turn in 

198 Tramping with Tramps 

the direction of a general overthrow of the existing 
social state and order. 

In regard to the public on which the German tramp 
lives and thrives, it is only necessary to say that it is 
even more inanely generous than its counterpart in the 
United States. With all its groans under taxes, mili- 
tary and otherwise, it nevertheless takes upon itself 
voluntarily the burden of the voluntary vagrant— the 
man who will not work. This is the more surprising 
when one recollects that the entire theoretical treat- 
ment of beggars in Germany is founded on the supposi- 
tion that each one is a bona-fide seeker of labor. The 
community practically says to the culprit : You can 
make use of our Verpflegung-Stationen, where you 
can work for your lodging and meals, and have also a 
half-day to search for work, if you can identify your- 
self as a seeker of labor. We not only offer this, but 
also attempt to guarantee you, through the efforts of 
our philanthropists, a casual refuge in Die Herberge zur 
Heimath, while you are out of work. And if, through 
untoward circumstances or through your own careless- 
ness and weakness, you have fallen so low that the 
Stationen and the Heimath cannot take you in because 
your identification-papers are irregular, and you 
appear more of a vagabond than an unfortunate 
laborer, we then invite you into the labor colonies, 
founded also by our philanthropists, where you can 
remain until you have earned good clothes and proved 
yourself worthy. But if we catch you begging, we 
will punish you as a vagrant ; consequently you would 
do better to make use of all the privileges we offer, 
and thus break no laws. This is the theory, and I con- 

Life among German Tramps 199 

sider it a good one. But the man who will not work 
passes through these institutions as freely as the man 
who will, owing to the lack of determined discrimina- 
tion on the part of the officers, and the desperate 
cleverness of the offenders. 



IT was not my intention, in going to Russia, to tramp 
there. I planned merely to see St. Petersburg and 
Moscow, work for a while on Count Tolstoi's farm at 
Yasnaya Polyana, and then, after a short trip in the 
south, return to Berlin. I did all these things accord- 
ing to expectation, but I also made a tramp trip. It 
happened in this way : I had no more than reached the 
Russian capital when the tramp was forced upon me. 
As I jumped into the cab with my friend, who had 
come to the train to meet me, he pointed out about 
twenty tattered and sorry-looking peasants, marching 
by us under police escort. 

'^ There go some Goriouns," he exclaimed— '4ook 
quick ! " 

I had only to follow the men with my eyes to know 
that they were Russian tramps. 

'^ What are the police doing with them ? " I asked. 

" Oh, they probably have no passports and are to be 
sent back to their villages." 

'' Are there many tramps in Russia ? " 

My friend laughed. "Thousands of them. You 

With the Russian Goriouns 201 

can hardly go into a village without meeting them. 
They are one of the greatest problems Russia has to 
deal with." 

I soon saw also that I could not even approach a 
church without being accosted by them. They stood 
on the steps and at the doorway of every one I visited, 
and invariably begged of me, saying, " Radi Krista " 
("For Christ's sake"). Even at Yasnaya Polyana, fif- 
teen miles from the nearest town, and several minutes' 
walk from a highway, the Goriouns put in an appear- 
ance. I was there ten days, and at least one called 
every morning. They all seemed to know about 
Count Tolstoi's gospel, and came to his home, sure, at 
least, of something to eat. On the highway, at some 
distance from the house, I saw bands of ten and 
twenty marching by every day, and they often camped 
at a bridge which I crossed on my walks. 

This continual meeting the tramp and hearing 
about him naturally made me curious, and I won- 
dered whether it would be possible to make a journey 
among them. I knew enough Russian at least to 
make myself understood, and could understand much 
that was said to me. The great question, however, 
was whether, as a foreigner, I should be allowed to 
make such a trip. I talked with Count Tolstoi one 
day about the matter, telling him some of my experi- 
ences in other countries, and asking his advice. 

"Why not?" he said, in his jovial, pleasant way. 
" Of course you will have hard work in understanding 
their dialects, and you can hardly expect to be taken 
for one of them, but otherwise you ought to get on 
easily enough. From your pass and other papers the 


Tramping with Tramps 

police will see that you are nothing dangerous, and if 
anything should happen, all you have to do is to send 
to St. Petersburg. I should like to make such a trip 
myself, if I were younger. I 'm too old now. Once 
I went on a long pilgrimage and saw a good deal of 
the life, but of course you will see much more if you 
go directly into the tramp class. If you decide to 
make the trip, I wish you would find out how they 
look upon the authorities, and whether they really be- 
lieve in what they call their religion. It ought to be 
very interesting to talk with them on these topics, and 
perhaps you will be able to gather some useful material 
—only you will not be permitted to print it here in 
Russia " ; and he smiled. 

I finally decided to make a trial trip, and was for- 
tunate in finding a Moscow student who was willing 
to accompany me for a few days. He had tramped 
perforce in some of the southern provinces, and being 
much interested in the tramp class in the Vitebsk 
government, consented to go with me if I would begin 
my investigations there. I was fortunate also in hav- 
ing brought a tramp outfit with me. It had already 
seen service in England, Germany, and Italy, and I had 
taken it along for work in the fields at Yasnaya Poly- 
ana. It was a little better than the usual Gorioun 
dress, but I should really have been ashamed to put 
on anything shabbier. My friend the student was 
clad in a patched university uniform, which all of his 
class have to wear in Russia, and he looked like pic- 
tures I have seen of ragged Union soldiers in Libby 
Prison. We both had a little money in our pockets, 
and it was not our intention to beg for anything more 

With the Russian Goriouns 203 

than bread and milk, and not even for these things 
unless it was necessary to make good our pose. We 
reasoned that the peasants of whom we should have to 
ask for them needed them much more than we did, and 
I am glad to say that neither of us on this trip, nor I 
on others, which were sometimes made alone, asked 
for much that we did not pay for. 

Our credentials for the journey consisted of our 
passports, some university papers, and an open letter 
which I had received in St. Petersburg from Prince 
Chilkoff, the Minister of Ways and Communication. 
It was addressed to the director of the Siberian Rail- 
way, but I kept it by me for the sake of identification, 
and it helped me through many a predicament, although 
the of&cials to whom it was presented could never get 
it through their heads how I, an Amerikanski tramp, 
could be in the possession of such an almighty docu- 
ment. There were times, I fear, when they were 
tempted to arrest me as an impostor, but they never 
did— a good fortune which I can only explain on 
account of the singularity of the situation. The Rus- 
sian "system" was evidently not prepared for so 
weird a creature, and I was allowed to pass as an 

With the Moscow student I tramped for three days 
in the Vitebsk government, between the towns of 
Polotsk and Diinaburg, as dreary a stretch of country 
as is to be found anywhere in our West. It was warm 
August weather, and the sun came down on us in 
aU its Russian fierceness. There were times when 
I simply had to get under a tree to keep from sun- 
stroke. At night we slept out of doors, or in hay- 

204 Tramping with Tramps 

stacks and barns. The peasants always offered us the 
hospitality of their cabins, as they do to all tramps, 
but we could not bring ourselves to put up with the 
vermin we should have found there. In winter, on 
the other hand, the Gorioun is glad enough to curl 
up over their stoves, and I suppose that we also should 
have been, had the weather been cold. As it was, most 
of the vagabonds we met slept outside, as we did, and 
we always had plenty of company. On this trip we 
met two hundred, traveling in bands and families. 
They invariably wanted to know where I came from, 
which is the first question they ask, after the greeting, 
" Strassvuitye," and I told them the truth on each 
occasion. '' America— America," they would say in 
their simple way. " What government is that in ? " 
meaning what Russian province. I could not make 
them understand that it was not in Russia at all, which 
to them is the entire world, but they called me " the 
far-away brother," and I was probably considered a 
new species in their class. I never had the feeling 
that they accepted me as one of their own,— it would 
have been strange if they had,— but they, at any rate, 
dubbed me ^' brother," and this was as much as I could 
ask. They always wanted to share their simple fare 
with me, and I soon saw that there was but little danger 
in associating with them. 


There are two types of tramps in Russia, and they 
may be classified as the authorized and the unauthor- 
ized. The first are the so-called religious mendicants, 

With the Russian Gorlouns 205 

who are protected by the church and tolerated by the 
police ; the second are the common vagabonds. It is 
these last who constitute, from the Russian point of 
view, the tramp problem. The religious beggars are 
considered an inevitable church class, and are taken 
care of almost as conscientiously as the priests. The 
common tramps, on the other hand, are looked upon 
as a very unnecessary burden, and ever since the con- 
version of Russia to Christianity, laws have been passed 
and institutions founded for their suppression and 
reform. It is estimated that in European Russia 
alone they number over nine hundred thousand, and 
in Siberia their class represents an even greater pro- 
portion of the population. 

Their national name among themselves is '^Gori- 
ouns"— mourners, or victims of grief. The word is 
an invention of their own, but is supposed to come 
from the Russian word gore, meaning sadness. In 
Russian proper they are called hrodiagi. If you ask 
them why they do not work,— and the great majority 
are perfectly able to do so,— they reply in the forlornest 
voice mortal ever heard : " Master, I am a Gorioun 
—a victim of sorrow." They seem to have accepted 
the philosophy that a certain number of human beings 
are foreordained to a life of misery and sadness, and 
they pose as members of this class. On many of 
their passports I saw such expressions as "Burned 
out," "Has lost all his relatives," "Has no home," 
" Will die soon," " Is possessed of the pitiful spirit," 
and others of a like nature, which they bribe officials 
to write, or themselves forge. I could have had similar 
explanations put on my own passport. There are 

2o6 Tramping with Tramps 

tramps who make a regular business of this kind of 
imposture, and it is another evidence of how difficult 
it is to make even a passport tell the truth. In Ger- 
many the same trick is practised by tramps, and in 
both countries the beggar can buy false passes which 
the police cannot detect. I saw several in Russia 
which looked exactly like the genuine thing, and, had 
I wished to appear to be a Russian, could have bought 
one any day for ten rubles. 

In looks and dress the Gorioun acts out to a 
nicety the story which his papers are supposed to sub- 
stantiate. Never have I seen such sad faces as these 
men and women have when begging. At heart they 
are capable of considerable fun and boisterousness, but 
they affect a look of despondency, which many of them 
retain even when off duty. In other respects they 
resemble very closely the ordinary peasant, or muzhik. 
They all have an immense shock of hair, parted in the 
middle and chopped off roughly at the edges. The 
face is generally covered with a huge beard, which 
gives them a backwoodsman look not always indica- 
tive of their character. In America, for instance, they 
would be taken by tramps for " Hoosiers," but, in their 
way, they are just as clever and sharp as the hobo who 
would laugh at them. Indeed, I know of no hobo who 
can equal them in facial trickery and disguise, and 
wherever this is the necessary qualification for success- 
ful begging they are past masters. Their clothes are 
invariably rough and patched, and if by some chance 
they get a good suit it is pawned or sold immediately. 
The usual peasant shirt or blouse takes the place of a 
coat, and the trousers are tucked into the boots also in 

With the Russian Goriouns 207 

peasant fashion. A tea-pot hangs at the belt, and a 
bundle, containing all their possessions, is slung over 
the shoulder. Thus they tramp about the country 
from village to village, year in and year out, and are 
always distinguishable from the fact that on meeting 
a Gospodinn (gentleman), or any one else of whom 
they can beg, off come their greasy caps, down go 
their great shocky heads, and they say, " Radi Krista." 
When tramping on the highway, they average about 
fifteen miles a day, but a great many never make 
over five. One old man on the Kursk road, between 
Tula and Orel, told me that he was satisfied if he cov- 
ered three versts a day,— a verst is two thirds of a mile, 
—and he expected that it would take him the entire 
autumn and part of the winter to reach Odessa, whither 
he was bound. In this respect the Goriouns are Uke 
all other vagabonds ; they love rest, and if they find 
a good place, stick to it as long as possible. In the 
country they make their homes with the peasants, 
sleeping in summer in sheds and haystacks, and in 
winter in the peasants' cabins. Plagues though they 
are, the peasant always gives them shelter, and it very 
seldom happens that they die of cold or starvation in 
districts thickly populated. I could have stopped for 
days in every village I passed through, and the peasants 
would even have protected me from the police if it had 
been in their power. Their own life is so hard that it 
comes natural to take pity on the tramp, and they all 
have the feeling that favors thus shown prepare a place 
for them in the heaven of their imagination. Indeed, 
the Gorioun plays on this feeling in begging of them. 

I often heard him say, in asking for alms : *' It wiU 

2o8 Tramping with Tramps 

help you out above " ; and his humble friends seemed 
pleased to be thus assured. 

Men predominate in the Gorioun class, but in no 
other country that I have visited are there so many 
women and families " on tramp." They are all mixed 
up together, men, women, and children, and no great 
effort is made to keep even the families intact. I was 
told by tramps that in the peasantsV cabins there is 
very little separation even between the peasants and 
the vagabonds, and on cold nights they all curl up in 
a heap on the tops of the great piles of masonry which 
serve them as stoves. In large cities they live in 
lodging-houses and night-shelters. In St. Petersburg 
these places are found mainly in what is called the 
''Siennaia," about five blocks behind the Kazan 
cathedral. There are entire alleyways and courts in 
this district given up to the Goriouns, and in one 
house alone, Dom Viazemski, over ten thousand lodge 
every night. They have the right to return to their 
planks at any time during the day, and speak of them 
as their homes— their dom. The cost of a ''spot" on 
the benches is thirty-five copecks (about twenty cents) 
a week, in advance. 

The life that goes on here is pretty much the same 
as in lodging-houses everywhere, but there are a few 
peculiar features to be noticed. In the first place, 
there is a chief, or ataman, of the Goriouns of 
each room, and he is given the rights and privileges 
of a buUy. He is the strongest and most daring of 
all, and his companions allow him to play ''the 
almighty act," as the hobo would say, in their con- 
fabs and councils. Any tramp who refuses to knuckle 

..1.1.1 i.. . l.\ A I'.WIS. 

With the Russian Goriouns 21 1 

down to him is considered either a spy or a rival can- 
didate, in which latter case he must fight it out with 
fists, and sometimes with knives. If he is successful 
he takes the ataman place, and holds it until some 
one else dislodges him. In case he is taken for a spy 
he is shunned by all concerned, and I was told that 
every year several men are killed on this suspicion. 
When an actual raid by the police is planned, the 
ataman generally gets wind of it beforehand, and all 
lights are put out before the police arrive. They can 
then accomplish very little, and while I was in St. 
Petersburg several of their attempted raids ended 

Another queer custom is the way each man takes 
care of his boots. In every country the ScMiJuverk, as 
the Germans say, is prized, perhaps, more than any other 
part of the wardrobe, but the reason in St. Peters- 
burg is unique. Thanks to his boots, the Gorioun 
can be enrolled as a torch-bearer or mourner at 
funerals, and this is one of his most lucrative em- 
ployments. The aerencies which manage funerals re- 
cruit from the tramp class so many mourners for each 
interment; about thirteen thousand are employed 
in this way every year. The agencies furnish the 
suitable clothes and pocket-handkerchiefs— every- 
thing, in fact, but the shoes, which the tramp must be 
able to show on his feet, or he will not be hired. 
When a funeral is '' on," the tramps gather at the 
Nikolski market, and are selected by an employee of 
the agency. Those chosen are conducted to the house 
of the deceased, and there, under a porch, in a shed, 
or even in the court, ten, twenty, or thii'ty of them, 

212 Tramping with Tramps 

according to the elaborateness of the funeral, un- 
dress themselves entirely, even in the dead of winter, 
and put on the mourner's garb. Their own clothing is 
rolled up in a bundle and taken to the cemetery in a 
basket, where, after the ceremony, it must be put on 
again. The promised wage for this service is forty 
copecks a man, but with tips and drinks it usually 
amounts to a ruble. The St. Petersburg street-gamins 
have a way of crjdng out, "Nachel li?" (^'Hast thou 
found it ?") to the Goriouns as they file along— an allu- 
sion to their daylight torches. Some very funny scenes 
take place when the boys get too saucy ; for the men 
forget, in their anger, the solemnity of the situation, 
and, dropping their torches, run after the boys, much 
to the consternation of the agency and the family 

The funeral over and the money in their pockets, 
they return to the lodging-house for an uproarious 
night spent in drinking vodka. When the last drop 
is gone, they fall over on their planks senseless, and 
to see them in this condition makes one fancy he is 
looking on in a morgue. They lie there as if dead, and 
the stench in the room could not be worse if they 
were actually in a state of decay. One would think, 
under such circumstances, there must be a heavy 
percentage of sickness and mortality among them, 
but I think this is not true. I saw a number of 
crippled and deformed beggars, but otherwise they 
seemed a fairly healthy lot, and never anywhere have 
I seen such herculean bodies. Many of them looked 
as if they could lift an ox, and in one of the few 
squabbles that I witnessed, they knocked one another 

With the Russian Goriouns 213 

about in a way tliat would have done lionor to pro- 
fessional pugilists. However, these knock-down fights 
are not frequent. For a people so degraded they are 
phenomenally sweet-tempered ; in England and Amer- 
ica, tramps with their strength would be measuring it 
on all occasions. 

In the lodging-houses, as in the peasants' cabins, 
men and women are mixed up together, and there 
seems to be no effort at all to keep them separated. 
They say that they are married, or "belong to the 
family," and the Starosta (proprietor) allows them to 
keep together. Their children— and each couple has 
its full share— are used for begging purposes ; indeed, 
they are the winning card of the Russian tramp. If 
they are deformed or crippled, so much the better. 

The food of these tramps is probably the simplest 
bill of fare known among European vagabonds. On 
the road they seldom have more than black bread and 
milk, and even in towns they are satisfied with the 
addition of a dish of potatoes. Meat they know very 
little about, and it almost never occurs to them to 
spend their money for a good steak ; they prefer to 
buy vodka. Of course there are exceptions to this 
rule ; in every country there are beggars who keep up 
with the latest styles and indulge in a gourmet's dishes, 
but they are not common in Russia. 

There is another trait of the Goriouns to record 
—their clannishness. In almost every government 
of the empire they are organized as compactly as a 
trade-union, and even in St. Petersburg, strict as the 
police are, they have their peculiar artel It was im- 
possible for me to become a member of these corpo- 

214 Tramping with Tramps 

rations. I should have had to knuckle down very sub- 
missively to some ataman, or bully, and this I was 
not willing to do. It would also have been neces- 
sary to learn the different dialects, and I had all I 
could do to make use of my small Russian vocabulary. 
Each artel has its own peculiar lingo, and it is 
almost as hard to learn as Russian itself. Even the 
native inhabitants know very little about such dialects, 
and the students who traveled with me had as much 
difficulty as I did in understanding them. Fortu- 
nately, however, the tramps can also speak Russian, 
and we generally conversed with them in this language. 
I give here what I learned about their various artels, 
but it is in no sense an exhaustive report. There are 
many of which I heard nothing, and it would take a 
book to describe them all. 

In Moscow one of the most notorious clans is the 
so-called ^' Gouslitzki," or " Old Believers," who came 
originally from the district of Bogorodsk. They are 
mixed up with the regular working population of the 
town and have no particular sign by which a stranger 
could distinguish them, but their business is entirely 
criminal. They counterfeit money, forge passports 
and baptismal certificates, beg and steal, and the police 
have to keep a continual watch over them. Ostensibly 
their business is manufacturing trinkets, colored im- 
ages, and toys, but these are merely subterfuges to 
gain them the privilege of standing on the sidewalks 
as hawkers. In their lodging-houses— and there are 
several supported by them alone— they live under the 
direction of a head man whom they must obey, and a 
certain percentage of their day's earnings has to be 

With the Russian Goriouns 215 

contributed to a common fund. From time to time 
this fund is divided equally among all the members 
of the organization, but it is almost immediately given 
back as "renewed stock." The Gouslitzki are unlike 
most of their class in being veiy parsimonious, and 
they have the reputation of drinking very little— some 
not at all. They speak two languages, Russian and a 
dialect which is practically their mother-tongue. They 
have been settled in Moscow for generations, and the 
police find it impossible to drive them out. 

The " Chouvaliki," another well-knoTvn gang, are 
mainly peasants, but they come also from the Moscow 
government, being settled in the districts of Veresisk 
and Mozhaisk. It would be very peculiar in America 
to see a band of farmers starting off on begging and 
marauding trips, but this happens in Russia, and the 
Chouvaliki are of this class. In the census of Russia 
they are put down as peasants, and they do pretend 
to work a part of the year, but they are known from 
Moscow to the Don as the begging Chouvaliki. They 
go on the road twdce a year, and exploit by prefer- 
ence the governments of Tamboff, Voronesh, and so 
on down to the Don. The Russians call them brig- 
ands, and tell frightful stories about their robberies, 
but the Goriouns spoke of them merely as beggars, 
and I fancy this is what they are. On returning from 
their trips, which last sometimes several weeks, they 
spend in one orgy all the money they have taken in. 

It is in White Russia, and above all in the gov- 
ernment of Vitebsk, farther north, that the tramps 
form these beggars' organizations. During my jour- 
ney through the Vitebsk government I heard of them 

2i6 Tramping with Tramps 

right and left, and it is this district that contributes 
largely to the criminal population of St. Petersburg. 
The rich Ukraine is also a notorious haunt. At Khar- 
koff, for instance, I got into a regular nest of them, 
called ^^Tchortoff Gniezda" (Nest of Devils). They 
live there in dirty little cabins and underground 
caves, a close community with its ataman and com- 
mon funds. They start out in the morning on their 
begging trips, and return at night for debauches, those 
who have been most successful inviting their raMiy or 
pals, to celebrate with them. There is a careful divi- 
sion, or douban, of all the spoils taken in during the 
day, and each one receives his share, minus the con- 
tribution to the common tribe. 

In Kazan, the Tatar town on the Volga, there is 
an artel of beggars whose origin goes back to the 
taking of Kazan \>y Ivan IV, and they are known all 
over Russia as the ''Kazanskia Sieroty" (the Kazan 
Orphans). Although Mussulmans, they beg "in the 
name of Christ " (" Radi Krista ")• They will beg even 
from other beggars if they do not belong to their 
organization, and consider everybody their prey who 
is not an '^ Orphan." They can only be compared to 
the tramps who exploit the governments of Samara and 
Saratoff, and those coming from fifteen villages of the 
districts of Saransk and Insarsk, in the government of 
Penza. These last, although officially peasants, are 
all organized into narrow begging corporations, and 
call themselves " Kalousni," which comes from their 
dialect word halit, meaning "to reap," or, as they 
would say, "to beg." In Moscow, on the other 
hand, the generic dialect term for beggars is "Zvo- 

With the Russian Goriouns 217 

nary," which comes from zvonit, also meaning ''to 

The Kalousni, or " Reapers," start out on their beg- 
ging trips in their wagons immediately after harvest. 
All of them who can move, excepting the very oldest 
and youngest, depart for " the work," as it is called. 
Those who have no blind or deformed children of their 
own rent them in neighboring villages. The village 
of Akchenas is the center of this trade, and peasants 
send their deformed children there to be marketed off. 
In the Galitzin village, in the government of Penza, 
amounting to three hundred cabins, five hundred of 
the inhabitants are peasant beggars ; in Akchenas, one 
hundred and twenty cabins, there are only four persons 
who are not " Reapers " ; in Germakoff, another hamlet 
of the district, there is not an inhabitant who does not 
go kalit (begging). The return of these bands to 
their homes is celebrated by f^tes and orgies. The 
main one is on November 8, St. Michael's day, when 
they spend every copeck they have collected. The 
next trip takes place in winter, and they return to 
their villages by Lent. The third return is just be- 
fore Pentecost. 

Although I did not tramp in Siberia, I traveled 
there and heard much of the local tramps. They are 
not so definitely organized as in European Russia,— 
many travel entirely alone,— but I saw and heard of 
several categories. On the highway between Ekate- 
rinburg and Tinmen the traveler is accosted by 
beggars known as the '' Kossoulinski." They live 
exclusively by begging, and in summer sleep out of 
doors along the route between the towns mentioned. 

2i8 Tramping with Tramps 

At Ekaterinburg there are also unnamed gangs of 
young men and little boys and girls who are continually 
begging of the inhabitants. They are generally the 
children of deported convicts, or those of peasants who 
were driven by famine out of neighboring districts. 

If I could have got into the wooded parts of Siberia 
I might also have made the acquaintance of that queer 
product of Siberian prison life, the runaway convict 
tramp. Early in the spring he makes a dash for lib- 
erty, sometimes being shot down in the attempt, and 
then again succeeding. He runs to the woods and 
lives there until autumn, when, if there is no hope of 
getting back to European Russia, he gives himself up 
and returns to prison again. In the spring, " when the 
birds call him," as one of his songs pathetically relates, 
he makes another dash for the trees. Only at night 
does he venture into the villages, and then merely for 
a moment to snatch the food left for him on the win- 
dow-sills by the generous-hearted peasants. He grabs 
the bread, or whatever it is that they have set out, and 
then scampers back to the woods like a wolf. 


Religious beggars in Russia are a class by them- 
selves. In giving alms to them the average Russian 
thinks that he is making so much more likely his wel- 
come in heaven, and they, of course, stand by him in 
the conceit. If you give them a ruble they will swear 
that you are going to heaven, and even twenty copecks 
make one's chance pretty good. 

The most easily distinguished type is what is called 

With the Russian Gor'iouns 219 

the religious lay mendicant. He is always standing 
around the churches in St. Petersburg and Moscow, 
and everybody who has visited these cities will recall 
him. He is generally an old peasant, begging for 
some village church, and the police or church authori- 
ties give him the necessary passes and stamped docu- 
ments. He stands at a church door or near some 
shrine, bareheaded and with a little plate in his hand, 
covered with cloth on which is embroidered the cross. 
This is a passe-partout wherever he goes, and serves as 
an excuse for entering restaurants, railway-stations, 
and other public places. As a Russian gentleman said 
to me : '^ You can't drive a man out with the cross in 
his hand," and he is consequently allowed to go pretty 
much where he pleases. Unfortunately, however, it 
is not very difficult to imitate him, and there are a 
number of Goriouns in Russia, posing as religious 
lay mendicants. They counterfeit the necessary 
papers, buy the plate and cross, and then beg with all 
their might. Occasionally they are discovered and 
severely punished, but the winnings from this kind of 
begging are so tempting— sometimes as much as ten 
rubles, or five dollars a day— that they are willing to 
run the risk. There are also monk beggars who pro- 
ceed in the same way as those of the lay order, except 
that they wear monk costumes. It is consequently 
not easy for the common tramp to imitate them, but 
it has been done. 

Authorized and permitted though these monks are, 
there is but little need for them to beg, for their con- 
vents are almost without exception rich. The more 
they have, however, the more they want, and so the 

220 Tramping with Tramps 

monks are sent out to beg of poor and rich ahke. An 
amusing story is told of how one of these convents was 
reheved of some of its superfluous wealth. During 
the Crimean War Nicholas I borrowed ten million 
rubles from the Laura monastery at Kieff, and gave 
in exchange his note like any other mortal. Alex- 
ander II, after coming to the throne, made a tour 
of the provinces and visited Kieff, where, according 
to custom, the first thing he did was to caU at the 
Laura. He was received by the metropolitan and 
clergy in great array, and during the ceremony the 
note of Nicholas was presented to him, of course for 
payment, on a beautiful plate. He took the bit of 
paper, read it carefully, and then, holding it high in 
the air, said in a ver}^ solemn voice : " Behold the 
most touching proof of the patriotism of Russia's 
clergy when she has need of them ! I cannot better 
thank you than by giving you, as a glorious memento, 
this autograph of my august father." And that 
ended the matter for all time. 

The pilgrims are another type of religious beggar. 
They also are mainly old peasants, who have made a 
vow to go afoot to some distant shrine, often a thou- 
sand miles away. They take with them only money 
enough to buy candles to place at the altars where 
they worship en route, and trust to the mercy of the 
people they meet for food and shelter. No peasant 
would refuse them hospitality, and they are taken in 
whenever they appear. Money is never offered them, 
because it is known that they will not accept it. All 
they want is food enough to keep body and soul to- 
gether, and this they feel free to ask for. 

With the Russian Goriouns 221 

These pilgrimages are very frequent in !Russia, and 
are always the result of a vow, made sometimes many 
years before. Each famous monastery, like the Solo- 
viecki, near the White Sea, the Troitzke, near Mos- 
cow, the Laura, at Kieff, and many others, has its 
days of '' grand pardon," which attract pilgrims from 
the farthest points of the empire. They travel invari- 
ably on foot, and occasionally in bands, but the typi- 
cal pilgrim goes alone. His destination is sometimes 
even Jerusalem. This is often the case among de- 
voted monks, who make this the last act of a life con- 
secrated to the church. The peasants feed and shelter 
the pilgrim, and he is one of their main objects of 

There is one more class of authorized beggars in 
Russia— the nuns. These women, with long robes and 
pointed bonnets, generally travel in couples. They beg 
on what is called the ^' contract system." An arrange- 
ment is made with a convent by which they are allowed 
to exploit certain districts, and they agree in return to 
give the convent a certain percentage of their win- 
nings ; all over this amount belongs to them personally. 
They are taxed according to their ability, the percen- 
tage varying from one to three rubles a day. When 
they are young and pretty, which they sometimes are, 
they do very well. As a Russian who has often given 
to them said to me : ^^ You can't give copper to a pretty 
woman," and they know wonderfully well how to 
make their attractions tell. They are acquainted with 
all the ^' good places," and learn quickly to discern the 
generous giver. There is no doubt, however, that 
much is given them without any thought of the church 

222 Tramping with Tramps 

or religion, and it is an open secret in Russia that 
there is a great deal of corruption among them. I 
myself saw them in a state of intoxication several 
times, and their conduct was not at all in keeping with 
their religious calling. 


SoiMETHiNG remains to be said about the causes of 
vagabondage in Russia and what is being done to sup- 
press it. The religious mendicants must be left out of 
the discussion, for they are not supposed to be a part 
of the problem. It is the Gorioun class that the 
Russians are particularly anxious to be rid of, and it 
is they who correspond to the tramp class in more 
Western countries. 

The love of liquor is the main cause of their degrada- 
tion. Two thirds could be made respectable men and 
women if they were free of their passion for drink, and 
until they are, I see no hope of bettering them. They 
will even steal from the churches, religious as they 
are, if impelled by thirst for vodka, and it is simply 
impossible for an employer to have anything to do 
with them. In St. Petersburg a large number of 
them are discharged mechanics and day-laborers, who 
know perfectly well how to earn their living, but have 
lost position after position on account of their loose 
habits. The minute they get a week's wage, they 
go off and spend it for drink, and then there is no 
place for them. 

Besides this strictly individual cause, there are cer- 
tain economic facts which help to explain the situa- 

With the Russian Goriouns 225 

tion. The lowering of railroad fares has started a 
regular hegira of peasants toward the towns, where 
they imagine that they are to make their fortunes. 
We think in America that a great deal might be 
done to change the lot of outcasts if they could be led 
back to the country and settled on farms, but Russia 
teaches us plainly enough that this alone will not suf- 
fice. There must be something besides country air 
and surroundings to offset the attractions and temp- 
tations of city life. In Russia it has been found that 
after the peasant has once experienced these attrac- 
tions he is never happy on the farm. 

Over seven thousand peasant tramps are sent away 
from St. Petersburg every year, but a still larger 
number find their way back. There is a case on 
record where a man was sent away one hundred and 
seven times and returned after each expulsion. When 
one takes into consideration that the majority of all 
those thus sent away receive new clothes before leav- 
ing, it is easy to see what an expense they are to the 
town, and the most of them sell their new clothes at the 
first opportunity. This is one of the weakest points in 
all the Russian methods with tramps. The police re- 
turn vagabonds to their villages, expecting them thus 
to be kept away from city temptations, but the trouble 
is that they cannot hold them there. They run back 
to the towns the first chance they get, and then there 
has to be another expensive expulsion. Lately some 
of the governors of inland districts have petitioned 
the police to stop doing this, explaining that tramps 
thus returned corrupt their village companions. 

Besides returning a beggar to his village, there are 

226 Tramping with Tramps 

also light punishments. If he is arrested for the first 
time in St. Petersburg, he is brought before a commis- 
sion, by which he is questioned and then handed over 
to a more special committee, before which he must 
submit to another cross-questioning. If he can prove 
that he has been driven to beg by poverty alone, he is 
recommended to the care of the poor authorities of his 
district. If he has been arrested several times before, 
he is taken immediately to a justice, by whom he is 
condemned to a punishment, varying, according to cir- 
cumstances, from a month's to three months' hard 
labor in prison. These are only such beggars as 
have been caught in the act, so to speak, and have 
papers certifying to their identity. Those who are 
found without passports are taken in hand by the 
police alone. If nothing very bad is found against 
them, they are allowed to go free, if some one will 
stand sponsor for them ; in this case they must send 
to their home authorities for a passport, and if it is 
received they can remain in the town for a period of 
three months. It is possible with good conduct to 
have this term of probation prolonged to nine months, 
but after that, unless very good reasons are given, the 
man must return to his village. 

There are also reformatory and charitable institu- 
tions which seek a regeneration of the tramp on phil- 
anthropic grounds. Recently a number of workhouses 
have been put up in the largest towns, and great hopes 
are placed in these very praiseworthy undertakings. 
The present empress has taken them all under her 
personal protection, and there is every likelihood that 
they will be weU supported. The effort is thus made 

With the Russian Goriouns 227 

to offer every tramp a chance to work j they are to 
serve as a test-house where the Gorioun can show 
what he really is. He is not compelled to make 
use of them, but if it should be discovered that he 
knew about them and still begged, he would be pun- 
ished very severely. 

Both men and women are received, and they can 
earn their daily bread by working for it. Lodging 
must be found elsewhere, but children can be left 
during the day in a creche belonging to the institu- 
tion. Father John of Kronstadt is credited with hav- 
ing founded the first of these workhouses, but it is 
only lately that they have become popular. If well 
managed they ought to do good, for the great ques- 
tion in Russia, as well as everywhere else, is to find out 
who the really deserving are, and the workhouses 
can be of great assistance in developing the facts. 
How much they will aid in lessening the professional 
vagabondage of the country remains to be seen. If 
the police— and everybody knows what powers the 
Russian police have— are unable to accomplish this, 
it is hardly likely that the workhouses can do much 
more. Indeed, I fear that nothing can root out en- 
tirely this class in Russia. It is too old and settled 
to give up the struggle without a long resistance, 
and there are traditions dear to all Russians which 
will forever aid the Gorioun in his business. A Rus- 
sian prince with whom I talked about the possibility 
of getting rid of the tramp class said to me : " It is 
simply out of the question. We are all beggars, 
every mother's son of us. The aristocrat begs a 
smile of the czar, and others ask for honors, posi- 


228 Tramping with Tramps 

tions, decorations, subsidies, and pensions, and it is 
these beggars who are the most persistent of all. 
Russia is the land of na tchai ["for tea," like pour 
hoire in French, and Trinkgeld in German], and no 
laws or imperial ukase will ever make it any dif- 



THE British tramp had long been an object of curi- 
osity with me. I felt that I knew his American 
cousin as well as it is possible to know him by liv- 
ing with him, and I had learned the ways of the 
German Chausseegrabentapezirer. Among my friends 
in the university at Berlin was a student of philosophy 
who also regarded the English tramp with interest so 
great that he was willing to make a tramp journey 
with me to discover and study him. He doubted 
somewhat his ability to pass for an undeveloped va- 
grant, but decided to try it. We suffered, I am proud 
to say, no diminution of our friendship in this curious 
comradeship in a new field. 

One February day we drew up our agreement, and 
on the same day left for Hamburg. There we took 
ship for Grimsby, on a boat carrying mainly steerage 
passengers. Our fellow-travelers were twenty-two 
homeward-bound sailors, an old woman, and a young 
girl on her way to London to marry a man with whom 
she had fallen in love by telegram— at any rate, so 
she said. 

We were all cooped up together in a nasty little 


230 Tramping with Tramps 

hole absolutely without ventilation. I felt sorry for 
the women, and they, in their kind-hearted way, said 
that they were sorry for me, '' because I looked so 
sick-like." But I anticipate a little. 

While we were still lying at the dock we had an 
amusing experience. Just as the gang-plank was 
nearly ready to be hauled in, two detectives came on 
board. I was surprised that they had not appeared 
before ; for it is one of Kaiser Wilhelm's strong points 
to see that none of his young men, or "dear ser- 
vants," as he calls them, get out of his domain before 
they have done their duty in his army. The sailors 
laughed at them, and told them to go home ; mean- 
while Ryborg and I were supposedly asleep. That 
there was method in this drowsiness I cannot denj^, 
for Ryborg had no really current pass, and we were 
both fearful of being detained. We were finally dis- 
covered, and when one of the officers asked me if we 
were sailors, I rather naturally said, " Yes," being half 
asleep, and having seen that they had not disturbed 
the true seamen. 

The man was determined to see my passport, how- 
ever, and the long sheet of paper amused him consid- 
erably. He called it ein mdchtiges Ding, and I patri- 
otically told him he was right, and that it was about 
the " greatest thing " he had ever handled. He failed 
to see the point, and poked Ryborg. Then I quaked a 
little, but laughed inwardly too, when Ryborg handed 
him his student's card ; for it did seem odd to find 
a student of philosophy in that miserable den. The 
detective thought so too, and claimed that he did not 
exactly understand the situation. 

Two Tramps in England 231 

"Are you a sailor, a workman, an American, or 
whatr' said the officer. 

*' Ich bin— ein Studierter " (" I am— a learned one "), 
gasj)ed Ryborg. 

That settled the matter. The detectives walked off, 
and we were left for the following thirty-two hours to 
our North Sea misery, which was of such a character 
that, when we landed, we vowed never to go to sea 

Grimsby was uninteresting, so we went straight on 
to Hull. As this was the point where our vagabondage 
was properly to begin, I soon had my eye on watch for 
what American tramps call a '' town bum." I found 
one in a main street, and introduced myself thus : 

**' I say, Jack, can you tell us where the moochers 
hang out in these parts ? " 

" You 're a Yank, ain't you?" said he. 

This I acknowledged, at the same time asking, 

'' Because I know a lot of blokes over in your coun- 
try, an' I 'm thinkin' o' goin' over myself. How d' you 
think I'd like it?" 

" Tiptop," I answered ; " but you know they 're 
givin' the likes of us ninety days in Chicago now." 

"0-oh, well, p'r'aps I '11 go over later," was his 
rejoinder; and then he told me where the moochers 
were to be found. 

"You see thet corner? Well, just turn thet, an' 
keep hoofin' along till you come to an alley. Go up to 
the top, then down on your right to the bottom, an' 
ask roun' there somewhere for Blanket Row. You '11 
find all the moochers you want there ; but look out for 

232 Tramping with Tramps 

the Robert and the Dee [the pohceman and the detec- 
tive]. They '11 give you seven days if they catch you 

We found Blanket Row all right, and, luckily 
enough, at No. 21, a kip-house (lodging-house), or 
doss-house, as some call it, nicknamed " The Dog's 
Home." It looked rather uninviting, and we gazed at 
it carefully before entering. After a little consulta- 
tion we made up our minds to go in, so we walked 
through a long and dirty passage, pushed open a 
creaky, rickety door, and found ourselves in a smoky, 
dirty hole containing about fifty moochers. I was 
greeted with : '' Hello, Yank ! Where 'd you come 
from ? " 

The voice came from the fire, and I walked over 
from the door, and found as miserable a specimen of 
vagrancy as one often sees. I sat down, and told him 
a long " ghost-story " (yarn), and he returned the favor 
in the same coin. When he was convinced that I was 
one of the fraternity, he pointed out various things of 

" Them fires," said he, " is where you cook your scoff 
[food]. You can make tea, too, any time you like, pro- 
vided, of course, you 've got the tea. You '11 find all 
the pots, cans, pans, and boilers in that corner -, they 
b'long to the missus, but we use them. Them cup- 
boards over there is where you put your grub, ef 
you 're stayin' here any time ; they cost a tanner [six- 
pence] apiece, but they ain't worth hawkin'. My 
stomach 's the only cupboard I need. That piece o' 
paper on the wall 's the only sort of picter they 've got 
in the place." 

Two Tramps in England 233 

I looked over at tlie wall, and saw upon it a notice 
to the effect that smallpox was in the district, and that 
persons would be vaccinated free of charge at a place 

All this while Ryborg was doing his best to play 
tramp, and the stories he told, the tough way in which 
he tried to tell them, the half-and-haK effects they 
achieved, and his general out-of-place condition, were 
almost as interesting to me as the real moochers. I 
overheard him telling one of the men that he was " a 
sailor by inclination, but a tough by temperament." 

One of the tramps had taken a fancy to him, and was 
determined to be hospitable, so he boiled a large can 
of tea, and made poor Ryborg drink, drink, drink, till 
he had actually taken two quarts of the beverage at 
one sitting. He told me afterward that he had made 
up his mind, if any more were offered him, to pour it 
into his pocket, and trust to luck not to get caught. 

The Dog's Home in the second story consisted prin- 
cipally of beds. The price of each is threepence a 
night, and this is the common price all over Great 
Britain, except in the so-called ''Models," where a 
penny more is charged simply for the very deceitful 
name. I am sorry to say that the house was not 
much cleaner in the second story than in the first, if 
the tramps told us the truth. They all agreed in say- 
ing that the place was "crummy" (infested with 
vermin) ; consequently we decided to sleep elsewhere ; 
for we wanted a good night's rest, and there was 
nothing especially to be gained by staying there. 

We lived in the " home " in the daytime, however, 
and were on the watch for everything of interest. As 

234 Tramping with Tramps 

for the " sweet charity " of Hull, I learned that most 
of the moochers were satisfied when they could beg 
a "bob" (shilling) a day besides "scoff," and some 
seemed happy on fourpence a day. The old men 
and the young boys were most successful in begging. 
There were vagrants of middle age, and some much 
younger, who did fairly well ; but they lacked the de- 
termined spirit of the grandfathers and the kids. 
I had noticed this before in America, and suppose it 
is because the very old and the very young tramps 
realize that they must rely on their begging for sub- 
sistence, while the vagrants of twenty-five and thirty 
know that they have an alternative in work when 
luck goes against them, and are consequently less in 

My companion and I, being somewhat better dressed 
than most of the lodgers, were objects of considerable 
interest. Our hats, peculiarly American in style, were 
the main curiosities. They proclaimed our nationality 
wherever we went. Never in my life have I been so 
bothered with stares. One day I took off my hat in a 
small crowd of people, and asked a bystander if he saw 
anything peculiar about it. He admitted that he did 
not; but still the citizens of Hull guyed me unmer- 
cifully, and, for that matter, so did their countrymen 

I had been accustomed in America to dress fairly 
well when tramping, and the very clothes I was wear- 
ing in England had seen service at home and in Ger- 
many also ; therefore I was quite unprepared for 
their comical reception by the British. There was 
only one man in the Dog's Home who appreciated our 






Two Tramps in England 237 

style, and he was a countryman not so very long out 
of America. He was a most interesting fellow ; had 
been both workman and tramp at home ; but one day 
bade good-by to Hartford, Connecticut, and decided 
to go abroad. He came to Glasgow on a cattle-ship, 
expecting to get a return pass on his arrival, but was 
deceived, and put ashore with only four shillings in 
his pocket. Naturally he was angry, and made up his 
mind to see Scotland, England, and Wales at the ex- 
pense of Scotchmen, Englishmen, and Welshmen. It 
was a courageous thing to do, if not a moral one ; 
and, perhaps, it was not so very wicked, for his one 
ambition seemed to be to see the Tower of London. 
He had been " on tramp " about two months, had had 
some interesting experiences, and had become some- 
what opinionated. Hearing that he had been in Scot- 
land, I was interested to know whether he liked the 
country and had learned any of the tramp dialect that 
one might need there. 

'^ To tell the truth, mate," he said, " I was too drunk. 
You see, I got hold of a fellow in Glasgow who had 
some boodle, and we chummed it together till the 
boodle was gone ; and the only thing I can tell you 
about Glasgow or Edinburgh is that they 've got a fine 
pile of stone in Edinburgh, right in the main street, 
to the memory of that story-writer— you know his 
name— what is it?" 

I suggested '' Scott," and he went on : 

'^ Yies ; that 's it— Scott. Well, since I 've been out 
of Scotland I Ve had some hard times, and I 'd 'a' been 
in Ameriky long ago if I had n't pawned my rubber 
boots. I tell you, Jack, I 'd ruther be lynched in our 

238 Tramping with Tramps 

country than die a natural death over here ; and as for 
moochin' and lodgin', why, I can beg in five minutes 
in New York more money than I can here in a day. 
As it is, I 'm a little bit of a wonder to some of these 
fellows, because I 'm so dead struck on havin' the 
pleasures of life. I look for 'em till I get 'em, you 
know, and so fur I 've had my bob a day, besides 
chuck. And that 's more than some of these blasted 
gay-cats can say. Did you ever in your life see such 
badly faked bums? They make me think of prehis- 
toric gorillas. Half the time only a few parts of their 
bodies are covered in, and yet they think they can 
batter more when togged that way. How 's that for 
bein' bughouse [crazy], eh ? Oh, well, you can laugh 
all you want to ; but by the time you 've seen two 
per cent, of what I 've seen, you '11 say, ' Thet Yank 
war n't fur from bein' right.' " He promised to have 
another talk with me at the World's Fair. 

The fellow was correct about the clothes and the 
filthiness of the English moocher. Generally he 
dresses in a way that in America would be thought 
indecent and in Germany criminal. He is too lazy to 
clean up, if he had the chance, and harbors vermin as 
if he liked them. It is not surprising that lodging- 
houses are so unclean ; for if the proprietors of these 
places should admit only decent tramps, their houses 
would be left without occupants in a very short time. 
This is not an attractive theme, but it is one for the 
practical reformer to treat ; for I am convinced that 
when a man becomes callous in regard to filth, his 
reformation will be far to seek. And there is nothing 
that can make a purely temporary vagrant a thor- 

Two Tramps in England 239 

oughgoing one so surely as the inability to keep him- 
self clean in person. 

One little incident in the Dog's Home is worth tell- 
ing, for it illustrates a trait that is international among 
tramps. A kid had in some way offended an older 
moocher, and the man was on the point of striking 
him, when the Hartford tramp stepped forward and 
said : " You would n't hit a kid, would you ? " 

The man started back and answered : '' Well, I ort n' 
to, I know J but he plagued me like a reg'lar little 

That is a trait in trampdom, and even among 
criminals, that I have noticed wherever I have been. 
My own case illustrates it also. I am somewhat 
smaller than the average man, and I have no doubt 
that I have often enough oft'ended some of my cronies ; 
but never in all my experience have I had a real row 
or been struck by a tramp. I remember once quarrel- 
ing with a vagabond until I became very hot-headed. 
I was preparing boldly for action, when the great, 
burly fellow said: ''I say. Cigarette, if ye 're a-goin' 
to fight, I 'm a-goin' to run." Such sentiment is fine 
anywhere, and doubly fine when found, as it is so 
often, in the life of the vagrant beggar. 

From Hull, Ryborg and I walked to York, visiting 
nearly every kip-house on the way, as this place is the 
best for studying English moochers. In the kip at 
Beverley we learned that Mr. Gladstone was always 
good for a bob— a statement that I very much doubt ; 
for if it had been widely known, the Grand Old Man 
would have gone to the workhouse, so numerous are 
English beggars. Another story told there was that 

240 Tramping with Tramps 

of the ^' hawker tramp." He had a little girl with him, 
and the two evidently did a very fair business. 

'^We 've just come from Edinbro," said the old 
man, '^ and altogether we ain't done bad -, but we 'd 
been nowhere 'thout the bible.^ You see, nowadays in 
England, to beg much of a swag a feller has got to 
have some sort of a gag, and the hawkin' gag is as 
good as any. We 've had shoe-strings, pencils, buttons, 
and lots of other things in stock ; but all the good 
they 've done us, and all the good they do any 
moocher, is to get him into a house or pub with a 
good excuse. "When he 's once in, he can beg good 
enough ; and if Robert comes along, he can claim 
that he 's simply peddlin'. See ? Besides, I 've got a 
license, in order to be safe ; it only costs five bob, an' 
is well worth havin'. If you 're goin' to beg much in 
these parts, you 'd better git one, too." 

This is the " hawkin' gag," and very popular it is, too. 
In America it has almost exhausted itself, with all the 
other peddling tricks, excepting always the ''mush 
faker," or umbrella peddler and mender, and the 
''fawny man," or hawker of spurious jewelry. In 
England simple and artistic begging is by no means 
so well done as in America. The English moocher 
has to resort to his " gag," and his " lurks " are almost 
innumerable. One day he is a "shallow cove" or 
"shivering Jimmy"; another he is a "crocus" (sham 
doctor) : but not very often is he a successful mendicant 
pure and simple. He begs all the time, to be sure, but 
continually relies on some trick or other for success. 

1 The " bible " is tramp slang for the hawkei-'s little parcel of 
things which he is supposed to peddle. 

Two Tramps in England 241 

On arriving at York, we went at once to Warmgate, 
the kip-house district, and picked out the filthiest kip 
we could find. The inmates were principally in pairs ; 
each moocher had his Judy (wife), and each little kid 
had his little Moll (sister). These children are the 
very offspring of the road, and they reminded me of 
monkeys. Yet one has to feel sorry for them, since 
they did not ask for life, and yet are compelled to 
see its meanest and dirtiest side. Their mothers, 
when they are not drunk, love them j and when they 
are, their fathers have to play mothers, if they are not 
drunk themselves. Never in my life have I seen a 
more serio-comic situation than in that York kip- 
house, where two tramps were rocking their babies 
to sleep. Moochers— Bohemians of the Bohemians- 
fondling their babies ! I should far sooner have 
looked for a New York hobo in clergyman's robes. 
But tramping with children and babies is a fad in 
English vagabondage. 

From this I turned to listen to a very domestic 
confab between a Judy and her mate. She had just 
washed her face, and made herself really pretty. 
Then she sat down on a bench close to her man, and 
began to pet him. This bit of discourse followed : 

"Just go and get a shave now, Jim. I '11 give you 
a wing [penny], if you will, for the doin' o' 't.'^ 

'' Bah ! What 's the matter uv my phiz, any- 
how ? " 

"Naw; you doan't look purty. I can't love you 
thet way.'^ 

" Blast yer love, anyhow ! Doan't keep a-naggin' all 
the time.*' 

242 Tramping with Tramps 

" Please, now, git a scrape. I 'm all washed up. You 
mought look as decent as I do." 

'^ Lemme alone ; I 'm on the brain [I ^m thinking]." 

"Well, you mought have me on the brain a little 
more than you do. Did n't I git you out o' bein' 
pinched the other day 1 " 

He looked at her, relented, patted her head, and 
went for a shave. 

The surprise to me in all this was the genuine wif e- 
liness of that Judy. She was probably as degraded 
as womankind ever gets to be, and yet she had enough 
humanity in her to be really in love. 

Just a word here as to tramp companionship in 
England. Among the men, although one now and 
then sees " mates," he more often meets the male 
vagabonds alone, so far as other men are concerned. 
Women, too, do not often ally themselves with other 
women. But between the sexes partnership is com- 
mon ; though seldom long-lived, it is very friendly 
while it lasts. The woman is practically the slave of 
the man; he is the supposed breadwinner, but the 
Judy does more than her share of the begging all the 

We went by rail from York to Durham, for there 
was little of interest to be found between the two 
points. Everywhere it was the cities far more than 
the country that furnished the most amusing and 
instructive sights. On the train a rather pleasant- 
looking man, overhearing our conversation, asked 
Ryborg who we were. 

" You '11 excuse me," said he, " but your intelligence 
does seem a little more valuable than your clothes j 

Two Tramps in England 243 

and would you mind telling me what you are doing in 

As he seemed a candid sort of fellow, Ryborg began 
very frankly to tell him our mission, and I took up 
the story when he was tired. It was difficult for the 
stranger to express his astonishment. 

" What ! " said he. " Do you mean to say that 
you 've left good homes behind you, and are over 
here simply to study tramps? What good will it 
ever do you ? " 

'^ Well," said Ryborg, '^ it 's one way of seeking the 

" I declare, you 're the rummest pair of fellows I Ve 
ever seen," he returned ; and he looked after us curi- 
ously as we got off the train at Durham. 

Here we gave the vagabonds a wide berth, on 
account of smallpox; three tramps had been taken 
out of a kip-house that very day; so after a night's 
rest we moved on to Newcastle, stopping for a few 
hours on the way at the dirtiest kip that we found in 
England. One of the inmates, a powerful poser as a 
bully, was terrorizing an old man. 

''I say, granddad, get me a light, will you? 
Be sharp, now ! " 

Old Man. I 'm too rheumatizin'-like. Caan't you 
get it yerself ? 

Bully. Naw, I caan't. I waant you to get it. 
Hustle, now ! 

Old Man. I sha'an't do it. I ain't yer Hi Tittle 
Ti-Ti, an' I waant you to rec'lect it, too. 

BiTLLY. See here, pop ; what date is to-day ? 

Old Man. Fifth of March. 

244 Tramping with Tramps 

Bully. Well, pop, just twelve months ago to-day I 
killed a man. So look out ! 

The old man brought the light. 

Newcastle, from the vagabond's point of view, 
exists principally in Pilgrim Street. I visited three 
kips there, saw eighty-four new faces, and learned 
something about the wages of beggars in England. 
Four moochers gave me the information. They were 
quarreling at the time. Number One was saying: 
^^ It 's a lie. I 'd git off the road in a minute ef I could 
only beg what you say I can. Ef I hustle I can git 
four bob a day, and I 'm willin' to fight that I can, 

Number Two said : ^^ You never mooched four bob 
in your life ; you knaw you 're happy when you git ten 
wing a day. I 'm the only moocher in this 'ouse, an' 
I want you to know it. I beg 'xac'ly five bob in eight 
hours ; an' ef I begged twenty-four hours, 'ow much 'd 
that be?" 

Number Three here put in: ^' Tired legs an' 'n 
empty stomach." 

Number Four : " Keep still, ye bloomin' idjits ! " 

None of them could beg over two bob a day, and 
they knew it. There are beggars in England who can 
average nearly half a sovereign a day, but they are 
by no means numerous. Most of them are able to 
get about eighteen pence or two shillings; that is 
all. ' 

Our Newcastle friends told us that the road be- 
tween there and Edinburgh was not a profitable one. 
They claimed that the people were too " clanny-like," 
meaning too stingy. The Durham district they called 


Two Tramps in England 247 

the " bread and cheese caounty/' while Yorkshire was 
the "pie and cake neighborhood." Accordingly, we 
took ship for Leith. 

A fellow-passenger, half hoosier and half criminal, 
made up his mind that I was a crooked man. '' Don't 
come near me/' he said; ''you 're a pickpocket, an' I 
can feel it." 

I said : " How can you tell 1 " 

" By your hand-shake and the cut of your phiz." 

And throughout the trip he continued to regard me 
as a species of bogy-man, while Ryborg he considered 
a most reputable traveler. So he was and is ; but he 
made some of his most criminal faces on that same 
voyage, nevertheless. One of them, I particularly 
remember, seemed to say, ''I can't eat, can't sleep, 
can't do anything " ; and his under lip would fall in a 
most genuine manner. He was often eloquent in his 
representations of my ability to pose as a tramp ; but 
I am sure that nothing I can do would so quickly throw 
even the vigilant off the track as that face of my 

We went into Scotland without any prejudice ; but 
we had scarcely been in Edinburgh three hours when 
an English roadster tried to make me believe terrible 
things of the '' Scotties," as he called the Scotch 
tramps. " The Scotties are good enough to mooch 
with," said he, '' an' ain't bad people in some ways till 
they 're drunk ; an' then they 're enough to make a cat 
sick. Why, Yank, they can't talk about anything then 
but Bobbie Burns. It 's Bobbie did this, an' Bobbie 
did that, till you 'd think the sun did n't rise an' set on 

anybody else. I wish the feller had n't ever lived." 

248 Tramping with Tramps 

The poor man had evidently never read Bobbie^s 
"Jolly Beggars"; for if he had he would have long 
since made a pilgrimage to Ayr. 

Edinburgh can almost be reckoned as one of the 
best mooching towns in Great Britain, and if I were a 
beggar casting about for a life-residence, I think I 
should select this beautiful city, and that from my 
own personal experience. There is something deli- 
ciously credulous in the true citizen, and the university 
makes it a specially good place for clothes. Our first 
meal in the town we found at a "refuge " in High Street. 
We paid a penny apiece for a quart of good thick 
soup and half a loaf of bread. It was the largest 
quantity of food I have ever had for so little money; 
but it should be remembered that it was a charity. 
Cheap-restaurant living, in both Scotland and Eng- 
land, is more of a theory than a reality. For two- 
pence I have had a dinner at a Herberge in Germany 
that I could not get in Great Britain for five ; and for 
ten cents I have had table d'hote with four courses in 
Chicago that I could not get in London for a shilling. 

The cheapest restaurants that I know of in the 
United Kingdom are the cocoa-rooms ; but a tramp can 
live three times as cheaply in the kip-house, if he cooks 
his own food. Tramps fully realize this, and it is sel- 
dom that they go near a cocoa-room. One old moocher 
said to me, when I questioned him on the subject, " I 've 
been in them places time and again, but I never get my 
stomach's worth in them"— a statement to which I 
can add my own similar testimony. 

When traveling from Edinburgh to Glasgow, the 
tramp has two routes— one by way of Bathgate, the 

Two Tramps in England 249 

other by way of Linlithgow. Neither of them is a 
good begging highway. The people along the road 
are, as the German tramp would say, aiisgepumpt. 
Nevertheless, it must be traveled afoot, for railway 
fares in Great Britain are much too high for the 
beggar's purse. 

Ryborg and I determined this time to separate, he 
going through Bathgate, and I by way of Linlithgow. 
In this way we covered more ground, and at the same 
time Ryborg had the desired opportunity to play the 
tramp alone. His argument for the experiment ran 
in this wise : " To save my life, I don't seem to be able 
to talk with these beggars more than two minutes at 
a time, and I 'm really afraid that I am spoiling your 
scheme. You see, if they discover that I am not what 
I pretend to be, our work is in danger ; so I '11 try 
this trip alone, and see if I can't get a little more into 
the tramp spirit." We promised to find each other in 
i?ront of the general post-office in Glasgow. 

On the whole journey I found but one interesting 
moocher, and that a moocheress. She traveled my 
way for about two hours, and as she smoked my cig- 
arettes she gave me a little of her biography. She 
had lived just fifty years, did not know when she 
entered trampdom, had no recollection of her parents, 
and believed mainly in ''booze," as she called it. She 
prided herself on being a fighting woman, as do a 
great many of the English Judies. 

''Why, I 'm a reg'lar Charley Mitchell," said she, 
" when I want to be." 

" Would n't you rather be a John L. Sullivan ? " said 
I, to test her patriotism. 

250 Tramping with Tramps 

"Oh, yes, ef I wuz Amerikin; but I 'm English— 
I 'm patriotic, I am." 

"Then," said I, "you would n't want to be Lackie 

"D' you want t' insult me?" said she. "Naw; I 
would n' be anything Scot-like." 

" How is it, Judy, that you are in Scotland, then ? " 

" Oh, I 'm just lookin' fer me mate. I lost him in 
Edinburgh, an' 's soon 's I find him, I 'm goin' back to 
England." Just before I left her she said : " Tell me 
how you draw thet smoke in. I 've heard thet it 's 
real good ; but how d' you do it ? " 

I told her how to inhale the smoke of a cigarette. 
She tried it, choked, and promised herself by all the 
gods of her poor heaven never to try it again. Eng- 
lish Judies are great smokers, but they use clay pipes, 
as a rule. 

Glasgow is the best kip town that we found. Its 
lodging-houses are known all over Great Britain, 
and as soon as I was well within the city I asked for 
a " Burns Home." There are several of these in 
Glasgow, all belonging to Mr. Robert Burns, who was 
once a working-man, but is now a wealthy proprietor. 
He built his homes mainly to make money, but also to 
furnish poor workmen a cheap and fairly respectable 
sleeping-place. I stayed at the Watson Street Home, 
and although there were many workmen in the 
place, there were also numerous vagabonds. In the 
" sitting-room " there must have been about a hundred 
and fifty people, and some of them had been loafing 
around Glasgow for months. I made friends with one 
of these old residents, and he did me some good ser- 

Two Tramps in England 251 

vice. He bad been in America, bad been well treated 
tbere, be said, and so wanted to treat me well. I asked 
bim about tbe industrial intentions of the lodgers at 
the "borne." 

" Well," said be, " it 's hard to tell about all of them 
Some of these fellows sit in this room from morn- 
ing till night, and never are seen to beg a copper ; yet 
they live, too. Others do a little work now and then 
as ' sandwich-men,' and other little jobs, while there 's 
a few of us do nothing but beg." 

" Is Glasgow a good town for moochin' ? " I asked. 

"Well, that depends on the moocher. There 's 
enough charity here, and some to spare, if you know 
how to look for it. I never get over half a crown a 
day, but I can tell you a dozen places where you can 
get your dinner. Scoff 's always more plenty than 

" D' you mind tellin' what 's the main gag in Glasgow 
just now, for raisin' money?" I queried still further. 

" Well, I think gettin' vaccinated ^s about the best 
thing goin' just now." 

" What d' you mean ? " 

"Well, you see, smallpox 's on the boards; the peo- 
ple are scared; bums are likeliest to get the sick- 
ness ; so it. 's been arranged that any man who will get 
himself vaccinated can have a week's kip free. Some 
blokes 've been jagged [vaccinated] two or three times." 

This same vagabond did me another good turn down 
near the docks. We were walking along a street when 
three town tramps came along and guyed my hat. 
My companion noticed it, and as I had told him that 
I had been considerably martyrized in this way before, 

252 Tramping with Tramps 

lie turned round sharply on the guyers, and thundered 

" Who 're you lookin' at ? Ef you 're tryin' to guy 
this Yank, you 'd better stop. Ef you don't, there '11 
be a fight." 

I said : '' Let 's run, if j^ou really mean that." 

" Not much ! I 'm English, you know ; and I can 
knock out any Scotchman that comes around, and I 'm 
in the mood for 't right now." 

The town bums took him at his word, and left. I 
said to him : "■ You English fellows seem to have things 
pretty much your own way here." 

" Yes," he answered ; "■ we English fellers know how 
to bluff. We 've been bluffin' the world now for a 
good many years." 

" You forget the United States," I could not help 

^' Beg pardon, Yank 5 beg pardon ! " 

Ryborg and I met at the post-office, according to 
agreement. He had seen so few tramps along the way 
that he was still in doubt as to his abilities. He 
remained courageous, however, and I proposed a trip 
to Dublin. This meant Irish Sea, no appetite, and 
general ill health. But off we sailed to see Ireland. 
We stayed nine hours, and then sailed back to Liver- 
pool. On the way I saw more of Ireland in a dear old 
Biddy than I did in Dublin. She claimed that she 
saw Ireland in me also— a discernment truly penetrat- 
ing, considering that the Irish in me died out about 
two hundred years ago. 

In Liverpool our tramp work began again in good 
earnest, and I was fortunate in meeting there an old 

Two Tramps In England 253 

friend— Manchester Charley. We went around the 
Horn ^ together a few years ago, and got very well 
acquainted, as tramps will on such journeys; but we 
did not expect to meet next in Liverpool, though I 
knew Charley had left the States for London. He 
seemed glad to see me, and yet a little ashamed of me, 
too. My shoes were rather played out, and in other 
respects, also, I was somewhat below the American 
tramp grade. Charley noticed this, and his first greet- 
ing was, '' Shall I get you a new pair of shoes ? " I 
explained the situation as best I could, but Charley 
could not understand how I could " lower myself so." 
I told him that I was certainly better dressed than 
most of the tramps I had met along the road, whereat 
he laughed most scornfully. 

^^ Why, Cig," he said, " the fellers you've been bum- 
min' with are nothin' but skugees [a species of gay-cat]. 
You have n't seen a first-class hobo yet, I 'U bet." 

That was true, if one takes the American hobo as the 
standard, and I admitted it. Then he introduced three 
of his companions, saying: ''Here are some of the 
real article." 

They were very clever-appearing vagabonds, and 
very well dressed, too. I acknowledged their vast 
superiority as politely as I was able to do, and asked 
Charley how it had come about that I had so missed 
the genuine beggars, as I had all the while been on the 
lookout for them. 

1 The Horn is a bit of railway in Iowa, extending from Eed 
Oak southward for about twenty miles, then northwest for 
twenty more. It is used principally for long trains, as the main 
line from Red Oak to Pacific Junction is too hilly. 

254 Tramping with Tramps 

Charley said: '^ The fact is, there are not many of us 
in England. Up at London you '11 find more than 
anywhere else, but we ain't anywhere near as strong 
as you fellers in the States." 

'^Why is this? You certainly ought to be," I 

^' Well," he replied, " this is how it is. The country 
is full of these half-and-half bums. They go every- 
where, and the people get tired of them ; so when a 
really sharp moocher comes along, he has to run his 
chance of bein' classed with them chaps— that is, if he 
begs at houses. If he does as I do, — sends letters of 
introduction,— his luck will probably be better. Here 
in Liverpool, for instance, we do fairly well at the 
letter racket ; but we could never make a livin' at all 
if we had to batter the way most beggars do." 

Later in the day Charley explained matters more 
fully, and it turned out, as I expected, that he did 
"crooked work" also, both he and his comrades. I 
said to him at parting: "I could succeed in Eng- 
land, too, if I wanted to do that sort of business j but 
that is n't legitimate mooching." 

" It all depends," he answered. " A tramp ought to 
do anything he can, and there 's no feller so able to 
dodge the Dee as a bum if he plays the beggar and is 
a crook besides." 

This is a fact; but still it is not true hoboing or 
mooching, this being a beggar only in appearance. 
Some men do it constantly, I know; but the real 
tramp, wherever he is found, will rarely go into any- 
thing outside of begging and cheating. Thieving he 
leaves to more experienced hands. 

Two Tramps in England 255 

Liverpool fairly swarms with the lowest class of 
tramps, and we many times voted Manchester Charley's 
testimony correct. They live off any one they can 
capture, even "visiting brethren/' and are cordially 
hated by them. 

We planned to separate in our journey to London, 
after the manner of our last trip in Scotland. Ryborg 
was to take his way through Crewe, Birmingham, War- 
wick, and Oxford ; I was to visit Chester, Shrewsbury, 
Hereford, Bristol, and Bath. We were to meet at the 
end of a week in Reading, and journey on to London 
together. My own experiences on the way were very 
common. I saw only a repetition of what I had be- 
come familiar with in the other parts of England : 
"prehistoric gorillas," a few rather clever beggars, 
about twenty kip-houses, and more than two hundred 
vagrants. Nearly half of them, however, were seeking 
work. Two nights I slept in straw-stacks, and each 
time I had fully a dozen companions. They called 
themselves " free dossers,'' and in one way they were 
rather amusing— in fact, a new species of tramp : they 
were determined not to spend a copper of what they 

It seems that these fellows start out from London 
early in the spring, and batter all summer. In the 
autumn they return to London with their swag and 
spend the winter in some comfort. On their travels 
they either beg what they need or go without. If 
they cannot beg a lodging, they sleep in barns, brick- 
yards, and straw-stacks ; and from early in March 
till late in September they do not squander a single 
halfpenny that comes in their way. I had never 

256 Tramping with Tramps 

before met this variety of vagabond, and I doubt very 
much whether they would be allowed to associate 
with the real American hoboes 5 for the true tramp 
likes more generosity among his fellows, and when he 
meets a stingy brother he is likely to give him a wide 

Once in Reading, Ryborg and I met at the appointed 
corner, and he gave the following account of himself : 

'' In the first place, I had a mean road, and saw but 
few vagabonds. I had only three experiences. The 
first was not far from Crewe. I was practising to be- 
come a beggar, and I tried to smoke a pipe. For a 
while I made out very well, and accomplished a lot of 
smoke. I thought I should get on well now in kip- 
houses. But the second pipe played me a mean trick. 
I felt bad all over, and staggered along the road most 
unbecomingly for either a gentleman or a beggar. I 
gave it up. My second experience was with a crazy 
tramp.* He traveled with me for nearly an hour, and 
I could find nothing interesting in him except his 
habit of wetting his middle finger and rubbing it on 
his cheek-bone. This he did constantly ; but though 
I questioned him carefully, I could get nothing out of 
him. Finally he got angry with me, and leaned up 
against a fence till I left him. My last adventure 
happened when a workman gave me fivepence. He 
tliought I was an honest and unfortunate laborer, and 
after we had talked awhile he handed me the money, 
saying very politely, ' Perhaps this will help you on 
your travels.'" 

Our first night in London was spent in a German 
Herberge in the East End. The second night we slept 


Two Tramps in England 259 

in a Salvation Army shelter in Whiteehapel Road. 
At this last place we paid twopence each for our beds 
—boxes, I should say. They look like coffins with no 
bottoms except the floor. Yet they are comfortable 
enough, considering the price. The blankets are of 
leather, and if a man keeps his clothes on he can sleep 
warmly enough. On entering the shelter, we went to 
the rear of the building, where some of the lodgers 
were smoking their pipes and recounting their day's 
experiences. Everything was as orderly as possible, 
although many of the men were out-and-out vaga- 
bonds. I devoted myself to an old man w^ho had a 
very bad cough. He spoke kindly of the Salvation 
Army, and had only one complaint to make. 

'' These Salvationers," said he, '^ forget one thing : 
they forget that we men are tired. In the meetings 
they want us to sing ^s loud 's ef we 'd just got out of 
bed. They say, ' Come on, men ; sing away, be happy 
—sing, now ! ' But how 's a goin' to sing after 
he 's mooched and walked all day, I should like to 
know ? I ain't no enemy of the Salvationers, but I 
wish they 'd remember that we get fagged out." 

Ryborg and I went into the meeting, and as long 
as I live I shall never forget the sincerity of its 
leaders. They were not especially wise or delicate, 
but they were in earnest all over. One of the 
" soldiers " handed us hymn-books, and said, '^ Cheer 
up, men ; better times a-comin' " ; and the entire spirit 
of the meeting was of the same good fellowship. I 
felt then what I had felt often before, that the Salva- 
tion Army, in spite of its many mistakes, is, after all, 
one of the most consistent agencies for the betterment 

26o Tramping with Tramps 

of the class it seeks to uplift. The leaders of this 
meeting believed in their hearts that we should be 
" lost" unless something interposed to " save " us, and 
they were determined to save us if they could. In 
other words, the Salvation Army actually believes in 
hell, and is "hustling" to keep men out of it. 

We went to bed about ten o'clock, but I slept very 
little. The lodgers coughed nearly all night, and it 
was impossible to rest in such a racket ; but as some 
of the men said, it was better than sleeping out. 

The next two nights of our stay as tramps in Lon- 
don were spent in the Notting Hill casual ward, or 
" apike," as it is called in tramp parlance. There are 
twenty-four of these wards in London, and they are 
well scattered over England at large also. Their 
object is to afford wanderers a place where they can 
get food and lodging for a night or two by earning it. 
The usual work required is stone-breaking and oakum- 
picking. We had delayed visiting these places until 
we should arrive in London, as they are all very 
much alike, and we cared for only one experience of 
their hospitality. As I knew that this Notting Hill 
ward is considered one of the best in all England, we 
went there. Two years before I had visited this ward 
as a " gentleman." I had a letter from the president 
of the Board of Guardians, and I was treated most 
kindly. But on this March evening I went in as a 
tramp, and, as was to be expected, my treatment was 
entirely different. 

We appeared at the door of the ward about half -past 
seven. A little window was raised, and I stepped 
forward to state our business. Unconsciously I 

Two Tramps in England 261 

leaned against the sill of the window, which offended 
the inspector in charge considerably. 

" What 's your name ? " he thundered. Still leaning 
on the sill, I gave him my name honestly enough. He 
then remarked to some person inside that we were not 
accustomed to such places, evidently, and called out, 
'^ Stand back, will you ! " Back I stood. He cried 
out again, ^' Take off your hat ! " My hat came off 
instanter. Still again : " You come in here as if you 
was a meeleeonary. You 're not ; you 're a casual." 
I was as meek as could well be. Ryborg was itching 
to grab the inspector with his long arms. The next 
question was as to where we had slept the night 

" Straw-stack," I replied. 

''None of your impudence! You slept out— why 
don't you say so ? Have you got any money ? " 

'' A ha'penny, sir." 

'' Hand it in ! " In it went. Then I had to tell my 
trade, which was that of a sailor ; and naturally the 
next question was as to where I was bound. 

'' To Ameriky, sir, if I can ever get there." 

" You 're goin' to tramp it, are n't you 1 " 

" Yes, sir j that 's my intention " ; but for the life of 
me I could not see how I was to reach America that 
way. I was so frightened that I would have told him 
anything he wanted. 

When he was through with us, a kind-hearted at- 
tendant took us in hand, gave us some gruel and bread, 
a bath, clean night-shirts, and then a cell apiece, in 
which we slept "very well. 

As there were only four inmates that morning, we 

262 Tramping with Tramps 

were needed for the cleaning up, and so escaped stone- 
breaking, which I dreaded exceedingly, and were put 
at various light occupations— or rather I was. Ryborg 
was the victim of his strength. Our breakfast con- 
sisted of the same dish as our supper of the night 
before. I was soon busy as general fireman, scrubber, 
knife-cleaner, coal-carrier, dish-washer, and helper of 
my sister-sufferer, Mrs. Murphy, as she washed her task 
of towels and shirts. At noon we had pea-soup and 
bread. I enjoyed it, but Ryborg did not. The poor 
fellow was feeling badly ; he had had to scrub nearly 
twenty cells, and the bending over incident to such a 
feat had nearly broken his back. At dinner he said 
plaintively, " Flynt, I want to go home." '' So do 1," 
I replied ; '' but I fancy we 're wanted here till to-mor- 
row morning." This proved to be the case; but he 
felt better in the afternoon, and got through com- 
fortably, wheeling nearly a ton of stone from some of 
the cells to the general pile. He earned his keep, if 
ever any poor prisoner did. 

I fear I was more shiftless, for about the middle of 
the afternoon the attendant who was with me at the 
furnace said: "You might as well rest; just keep 
your eye on the fires, that 's all." It was kind of him ; 
and as I had at least earned my pea-soup and gruel, 
I took his advice. He was kinder to me, I think, be- 
cause I gave him a corn-cob pipe which he had had to 
take away from me the night before. During the day 
he had asked me several questions about it, and I said : 
" It 's a very decent sort of pipe — coolin'-like, you know." 

"Does n't Mark Twain always smoke one o' them 
pipes ? " said he. 

Two Tramps in England 263 

'^ Blest if I know," said I ; '^ but I can well think 

" I 'm a great friend of Mark Twain/' he pursued ; 
" an' I 'm a-thinkin' o' gettin' one o' them pipes, jest 
out of respect for him." 

'^Well/' said I, "permit me, in the name of your 
respect, to present you with my pipe ] besides, you Ve 
got it, anyhow." 

He thanked me profusely, and promised to keep it 
forever. Later in the day he reported it to be just 
as I had said, "sort o' coolin'-like." And he was a 
good friend to me all the rest of my stay in the 
Notting Hill station. 

On Wednesday morning we were turned loose with 
our two ha'pennies. We were both so happy that we 
decided to get off the road that very day. 

We had been tramps for three weeks, and had 
walked most of this time fully fifteen miles a day; 
so we looked up my friend at the Temple, and in a 
few hours were respectable again. That same day I 
took my tramp clothes out to the casual ward, and 
presented them to my friend the attendant. I had 
told him the day before that I expected to get new 
togs soon, and he had put in a plea for my old ones. 
Good luck to him and them ! 

Something definite ought to be said here, I think, 
regarding the character of the English moocher, and 
as Ryborg is new in trampdom, and as his impressions 
are likely to be sharper than mine, I have asked him 
to write out, in a few words, his general opinion of the 
tramps he met in this three weeks' journey. 

264 Tramping with Tramps 

Most of the tramps we met during our trip in England im- 
pressed me as being a trifle insane. There is a pecuHar dull- 
ness and lack of nervous energy about them that distinguish 
them very noticeably from the working-men. Still, they 
have a marked sagacity in getting up tricks to secure their 
food and lodging, and in getting out of work. Their life, 
together^ with ill-nourishing food, would tend to produce a 
mild form of insanity. There is surely a peculiarity about 
their mental structure that I have observed nowhere else. 

They are fond of philosophizing about themselves, and in 
a comical way. One of the worst vagabonds I saw told me 
that he considered himself as fine a fellow as any one, and 
that he had two brothers who were well-to-do, but he could 
not stick to one thing long enough to lay up money. He 
said that it never did anybody any good to knock about, 
unless his mind was so formed that he could learn by it. He 
did not see that he was not the equal of anybody in persever- 
ance, and he was not able to understand why it was not con- 
sidered very noble to live by begging and by peddling with- 
out a license. 

Some attribute their pauper condition to a roving disposi- 
tion; others lay their misfortunes to a cruel fate; but it is 
very evident that the passion for drink is at the bottom of 
ninety per cent, of the vagrancy in England. 

The tranips do not seem at all discontented or unhappy. 
They complained sometimes that people were stingy, but 
almost all of them looked well fed. There are a few of them 
who really want work, but the majority are not very anxious 
for a job. As one of the men in the kip-house said one day, 
after there had been a good deal of discussion on the subject : 
" Well, there 's more talk about work in this house than 
there 's doin' of 't." 

Most of the tramps we met were well informed, and fully 
half of them had been in America, or the "States," as they 
say. They also keep up to the times on political issues and 

Two Tramps in England 265 

pugilistic and police news. In one of the lodging-houses I 
heard the keeper of the place reading the police news of the 
week to an interested circle of beggars. I was struck by a 
remark of one of the fellows, that the sentence of the court 
was not so severe as one culprit had deserved. 

They are a very hospitable set to their own kind. I never 
entered a kip without a seat being offered to me, and in many 
cases they gave me a bowl of tea and a bit of bread. I never 
saw any quarreling over the cooking-utensils or the comer 
of the fireplace. Though they are without doubt the dirtiest 
and the raggedest and the poorest of men, I was everywhere 
treated by them with poUteness, so far as they understood 
politeness j in fact, they were often far more courteous than 
the steamer and other officials under whose charge I came 
during the journey. 

These conclusions are identical with my own. Ex- 
cepting workhouses, casual wards, one or two " ticket 
systems," and jails, there seems to be no great amount 
of legal machinery for the treatment of vagrancy in 
England. The workhouses are places where any one 
who can prove that he is penniless may be taken in 
indefinitely. The casual ward has already been ex- 
plained. The ticket system is simply the issuing of 
tickets, at police stations, to vagrants in need of food, 
the tickets calling for so much bread, and perhaps a 
lodging. Sometimes the ticket must be worked for, 
and sometimes it is gratis. The jails are mean places 
to get into, the discipline being severe, and work being 
exacted of the prisoners. 

Sentences for begging range from seven days 
upward, but most of the tramps with whom I talked 
spoke of seven days as the usual punishment for simple 


266 Tramping with Tramps 

begging, unless the offender could be proved to be an 
old stager. 

As regards the punishment of the confirmed beggar 
in England, there seems to me to be but one thing to 
say : it is too slight and trivial. The professional 
beggar should be shut up indefinitely. There are 
plenty to laugh at this suggestion, I am aware. 
Well and good. Just so long as they laugh, the 
beggars will laugh also ; and it is my opinion that 
the beggars will come out ahead. 



IN an article which appeared in the ^' Con temporary- 
Review" for August, 1891, I made a first attempt 
to relate some of my experiences in tramp life in 
the United States, and endeavored to describe a true 
knight of the road. It was a short paper, and there 
was a great deal left unsaid that might have been 
said, but it was a truthful report as far as it went. 
To one intimately acquainted with the hoboes I doubt 
whether the article would have seemed inaccurate, 
but it was so ."judged by some critics, and a number 
of my statements were challenged. Among other 
criticisms made, it was said that I had mistaken the 
character of the " American tramp " in three particu- 
lars : first, his nationality ; second, his numbers ; third, 
his unwillingness to work. It was also assumed 
that an Englishman was responsible for the supposed 
false statements. 

I was in New York at the time, and having ten days 
at my disposal before leaving for Europe, I decided to 
retrace some of my old routes and have another view 
of the situation. This chapter is a report of my ex- 
periences on the journey, and I have confined myself 


268 Tramping with Tramps 

to the rehearsal of bare facts without further com- 
ment, believing that the reader will moralize and 
philosophize whenever necessary. 

It was about five o'clock on the afternoon of a cool 
September day that I left my friend's home clad as a 
tramp, and started for the night boat for Albany. I 
wore an old suit of clothes, a flannel shirt, a good pair 
of shoes, and a respectable hat. I had paid special 
attention to the shoes and hat, for it is a piece of 
tramp philosophy that the two extremities of a beggar 
are first looked at by the person of whom he is beg- 
ging. While riding from Harlem down to the land- 
ing-place of the steamer, I laughed to myself while 
thinking how the tramps would envy me my nice 
head- and foot-gear. I wondered, too, whether I 
should be allowed to return with these coverings. 

At the ticket-office I paid one of my three dollars 
for a ticket on the boat to Albany. I made this heavy 
draft upon my slight exchequer because I was afraid 
to beat my way on the railroad between the two cities. 
I knew of old how roadsters are hated by the residents 
of both banks of the Hudson River, and not being at 
all sure that I should be successful in making the 
journey from New York to Albany in one night as a 
^'dead-beat" on a freight-train, I felt safer in buying 
a second-class ticket on the steamboat, and beginning 
my journey in the morning at Albany. 

I fear that the reader would have laughed at my 
calamity had he seen me after landing at Albany. 
Then I. was a tramp indeed, for the other two dol- 
lars had disappeared from my pockets while I was 
sleeping with a motley crowd of Italians on some 

The Tramp at Home 269 

boxes thrown promiscuously about the hold of the 
steamboat. There was now no possibility of dilettan- 
tism. I had to go head over heels into the beggar's 
life. I am glad now that it was so, but for the mo- 
ment I was downhearted, for I had leaned on those 
two dollars as possible friends if my begging courage 
should fail me at the crucial moment. But this was 
past, my bridges were burned, so I began my journey 
in earnest. 

I sauntered lazily over to West Albany, for it was 
still early, and arrived as the people were lighting 
their breakfast fires. I waited until it seemed that 
the fires should have done their duty, and then began. 
I visited several houses. Sometimes the man of the 
house said that his wife was sick, or that he was out 
of work himself ; and sometimes they told me to get 
out— that they had already fed one tramp. 

My fifth call was at the home of a German woman 
who claimed that she had fed beggars in the Father- 
land. She invited me in, placed a nice warm break- 
fast before me, and then we began a conversation in 
German about life, labor, and beggars. She was sorry 
for me, and said that I looked too young to be a 
beggar. I told her a tale. It was one of those 
stories in which the ghost of a truth still Ungers— 
such as tramps know so well how to tell. I shall never 
know exactly how much of it she believed, or what she 
thought of me, as I told her that I was the outcast of 
a hochwohlgeboren family in Germany. I know, how- 
ever, that she was sympathetic, and that she took me 
in, whether she did the same for my romance or not. 

After breakfast I stai-ted for Troy. I knew that I 

270 Tramping with Tramps 

should meet with plenty of loafers during the walk, 
and I preferred chatting with them on or near the 
highway. For Albany has a penitentiary. There is 
not a well-informed tramp in the United States that 
does not know about that prison ; it has punished 
many a vagrant, and the Albany policemen are no 
friends to beggars. Syracuse Tom will bear me out 
in this statement, for he winters in Albany with his 
kid every yearj but he does this simply because 
he is so well posted. Of course other tramps visit 
Albany as well, for it is a well-known town for "re- 
freshments " ; but only a few can thrive long there by 
begging only for money. 

On my way to Troy I found a camp of thirty-three 
tramps. They were living off the charity of Albany. 
They had all been in for breakfast, and were now re- 
turned to the hang-out to chat and scheme. Some 
were discussing Albany prisons, its policemen, saloons, 
and general hospitality. Others had built a fire, and 
were boiling their shirts in a borrowed kettle to kill 
the vermin. Still others were planning Southern 
tours. Some had decided to winter in St. Augustine, 
some in Jacksonville, and a few were talking of the 
best routes to New Orleans. 

One of the fellows recognized me. He must needs 
know where I had been so long, and why my hands 
were so white. " Cigarette," he said, " have you been 
a-doin' time ? Where did you get yer white colors ? " 
I told Yorkey that I had been sick, and had been back 
on the road only a few days. He would not believe 
me, and I am afraid that he took me for a " crooked 
man," for he said : '' Gig, you Ve not been in the sick- 

The Tramp at Home 271 

lugger all this while, and I hain't seen your register 
for many a day. No, my young bloke 5 you can't fool 
me. You 've been up a tree, and you can't deny it." 

I could not convince him of my innocence^ so we 
dropped the subject, and I told him that I was bound 
for Buffalo, where I had friends who would help me to 
brace up and get off the road. I assured him that I 
knew now what a foolish business '^bumming" was, 
and that I was going to make a grand effort to get work. 
Even this he would not believe, and he insisted that I 
was going West to some town where I knew that the 
tramps were going to have a '^ drunk." He tried to 
persuade me to go South with him, and claimed that 
Yonkers Slim was going to meet him in Washington 
with some money, and that the bums intended to 
have a great '' sloppin'-up " (drinking-boiit). I made 
him understand that I was determined to go West. 
Then he gave me some advice which was typical. 

'^ Young feller, you 're goin' to a pretty poor coun- 
try. Why, when I left Buffalo two weeks ago, the 
bulls [police] were more than pinchin' the tramps right 
in the streets, and givin' them ninety days. The only 
decent thing about a journey up that way is the New 
York Central Railroad. You can ride that to death. 
That 's the only godsend the country has. Jes let me 
tell you, though, what towns it cuts through, and then 
you '11 squeal. Now, there 's Schenectady. You can 
chew all right there, but divil a cent can you beg. 
Then comes Fonda, and you must know what a poor 
town that is. Then you 've got Utica, where you can 
feed all right, for any fool can do that, but you can't 
hit a bloke for a dime in the streets without a bull 


Tramping with Tramps 

seein' you and cliuckin' you up for fifty-nine days in 
Utica jail. And you must know well enough what 
that jail is this time o' year— it 's jes filled with a 
blasted lot o' gay-cats [men who will work] who 've 
been on a booze. After Utica there 's Rochester, a 
place that onc't was good, but is n't worth pawnin' 
now since that gay-cat shot a woman there some time 
ago. After Rochester, what you got ? Buffalo— the 
most God-forsaken town a bum ever heard of." 

Here I interrupted my lecturer to say that I had 
heard of Buffalo as a good ^^ chewing town." He 
turned upon me fiercely. '^ What d' you want? D'you 
only want to chew? Don't you want boodle, booze, 
togs, and a good livin'? Of course you do, jes like 
ev'ry genooine hobo. It 's only a blasted gaj^-cat 
that '11 fool around this country now. Cig, you 'd bet- 
ter come South with us. Why, las' year the blokes 
more than sloughed in money around the Ponce de 
Leon Hotel in St. Aug'stine. We kin git there in a 
week if we ride passenger-trains. You '11 hustle for 
an overcoat if you stay here much longer, an' I '11 bet 
my Thanksgivin' dinner that every bloke you meet up 
the road is bound South. You ^d better foller their 
coat-tails." I thanked Yorkey, but satisfied him that 
I was determined to get to Buffalo. ^' Well, so long, 
Cigarette," he said, when I left the camp for Troy. 

Between Troy and Cohoes I found another camp of 
tramps. Here were forty-two men and boys who were 
enjoying what tramps term a " sloppin'-up." Some of 
them had just returned from the hop-country, and had 
gathered together the fellows in their vicinity, and 
were now drinking keg after keg of beer. Thirteen 

The Tramp at Home 273 

kegs had already been emptied. These men seemed 
well satisfied with their treatment around Troy, and 
the majority of them had been there for nearly a week. 
One half -drunken loafer from Milwaukee was so anx- 
ious to praise the town's hospitality that he was ha- 
ranguing some of his comrades most zealously. '^ I 'v^e 
boozed around this town," he said, '' off and on for the 
last seven years, and I 've not been sloughed up yet. 
There 's only one or two bulls in the town that 's after 
tramps, and if a bloke is anyway foxy he can slip them 
all right. Two years ago I fooled around here for two 
months, and had my three square meals every day, 
and booze too, and I was never touched. You can't 
hustle pennies, o' course, as well as you can down in 
the City [New York], but you can batter for clothes, 
chuck, and booze all right enough. I know as many 
as ten. saloon-keepers in the town that '11 give me a 
drink and ask no questions. Yes ; Troy 's all right, 
and it 's only a rotten gay-cat that 'u'd say it wa'n't. 
The only mean thing about the town is that it 's slow. 
Us hoboes must be on the march, and it 's not in us to 
fool round a jerk town like this 'un too long. It 's tire- 
some, blokes." 

A hunt for supper in Cohoes afforded me a great 
deal of amusement, for I was entertained by an alder- 
man's wife. At any rate, she told me, while I was 
eating my supper in the large restaurant dining-room, 
that her husband, eating his supper in a private room 
on the floor below, was a village father and a hater of 
tramps. '^ But don't worry," she said ; '' he shall not 
bother you while I 'm around. I always feed a hungry 
man, and I always shall. I can't understand how some 

274 Tramping with Tramps 

people can turn away from the door any one who 
claims to be hungry. If I should do this, I would ex- 
pect to be hungry myself before long." A freight- 
train passed by the house while I was at the table, and 
my hostess noticed my anxiety to be aboard of it. 
" Never mind," she said ; " there '11 be plenty of freights 
along a little later, and this is a good place to catch 
them, for there is a grade here,xind you can keep away 
from the station, where you might be arrested." I 
remembered this woman throughout my journey, and 
every tramp that I met bound in this direction was 
advised of her house. I think it would hardly be so 
good another year. 

From Cohoes to Schenectady is only a short ride, 
and it seemed as if I had been asleep in the box-car 
only a few minutes when Ohio Red, who was with me, 
cried out, '^ Cigarette, we 're in the yards ; let 's get 
out." We slept in a box-car overnight. This is an odd 
way of resting. The coat, vest, and shoes are taken off, 
then the shoes are made into a pillow, the vest is laid 
over them, and the coat is thrown oTcr the shoulders. 
So sleep most of the tramps during the warm months. 

After an early breakfast, we went over to the hang- 
out on the eastern side of the town. Thirteen rovers 
were already there, cooking a conventional meal. They 
had begged meat, potatoes, bread, and coffee, and had 
stolen some other vegetables, besides a kettle, and 
were now anxiously watching the fire. Two more 
vagrants, who had been looking for cigar-stubs in the 
town, came in later. Their pockets were well filled, 
and they divided equally their findings. This " snipe " 
chewing and smoking is the most popular use of to- 

- C^-/. W N^ 

The Tramp at Home 277 

bacco in trampdom, and is even preferred to '' store 
brands " of the weed, which are easily begged. About 
dinner-time a man came out to the camp, and offered 
every one of us the job of shoveling sand for a dollar 
and a half a day, the work to continue into November. 
He might better have stayed away. The tramps told 
him that they had just left as good a job as that in 
Buffalo, and were now looking for three dollars a day ! 
At nightfall sixteen tramps, including myself, 
boarded a freight-train bound west. I was now on 
the main line of the New York Central, and had no 
further need to fear any large amount of walking. 
During the night ride I had an interesting talk with the 
brakeman at my end of the train. I was in a " gondola " 
(open car), and he espied me from the top of a box- 
car, and came down. "Hello, young fellow! "he said. 
" Where are you travelin' to ? " " Just up the road a bit, 
boss," I answered. '^ Well, let 's go to the other end 
of the car, where we won't catch the cinders ; I 've got 
one in my eye now filin' it to pieces. Can you take it 
out, d' you think ? " he asked. I held his lantern on my 
arm, and looked for the cinder, which was soon out. 
Just then the train whistled for Fonda, and the brake- 
man said : " You want to lay low here, for there 's a 
watchman in the yards. I '11 bring you a bit to eat 
out of my pail after we pull out." He returned, when 
we were again started, with a parcel of food, and 
began to speak of the towns up the road. " Utica," 
he said, " if you intend gettin' your breakfast there in 
the mornin', is sort of a snide place, this time of the 
year. You see, the hop-pickers are around there, and 
the police always arrest a lot of 'em, and you fellows 

278 Tramping with Tramps 

are likely to be jugged too. This town tliat we 've 
just left, however, is the meanest one on the road. 
I was comin' through here about a week ago, and 
did n't know there was a bum on the train. The 
watchman scouted around, and found three of 'em in 
a box-car, and yanked 'em all up. If I 'd known they 
were round, I 'd 'a' posted 'em about this town, but I 
had n't an idea they were there. I hate to see a lad 
get pulled for ridin' a train, because I 've been broke 
myseK, and I know what it is to be on the road. I '11 
always carry a man on my train if I can. But of course 
you know that sometimes the con [conductor] is a 
mean devil, and we can't do anything that '11 give him 
a grudge ag'in' us ; if he should see a bum on the train, 
he might report us. So you see what risks we run. 
But I 've given many a lad a ride, and I 'm always 
willing to be square to a square plug [fellow]." This 
is a typical kind-hearted Eastern brakeman, and the 
tramps like him. 

In Utica I made the acquaintance of a roadster 
called '^ Utica Biddy." I met him at the tramp camp 
just outside of the town, near the R., W. & O.R.R. tracks, 
where twenty-six other loafers were waiting for three 
of their fellow-travelers to return from the hop-coun- 
try, in order to help spend their money. Biddy is one 
of the best-known tramps on the New York Central, 
and he gave me more information about the districts 
around Syracuse and Utica than I could possibly have 
accumulated single-handed. While riding in a box-car 
from Utica to Syracuse we had a long conversation, 
and the following is the substance of what he told me : 

^' I 've been a bum on the division of this railroad 

The Tramp at Home 279 

from Albany to Syracuse for the last four years. I 've 
had my three squares every day, and in winter I Ve 
had a bed every night. I know you '11 hardly believe 
this, for some of you beggars come up to this country 
and curse it because you don't get on the spot what 
you w^ant. Now, I '11 give you a few pointers about 
these towns. We 've just left a town [Utica] 
where I can go to over a score of houses and get a 
square meal whenever I want it. Of course I was born 
there, and that may make a bit o' difference, but I can 
do the same in Rome, Albany, and Syracuse. I Ve 
been on this beat so long and have watched my 
chances so carefully that I know now just where to go 
when hungry. I hear a great many tramps kick about 
Utica, its policemen and snide houses. But if a lad 
will just knuckle down for a month or so and hunt 
out the good houses, make himself acquainted with 
the tough policemen and keep out of their way, find 
good barns for a doss at night, and make a business 
of bummin' carefully, there 's not a town on the 
Central that ain't good. The trouble with you 
strange blokes is this : you come up here, booze, draw 
your razors when you 're drunk, do too much crooked 
work, and o' course the people get hostile. Why, see 
how many lads are workin' my racket over in Penn- 
sylvania. You know yourself that on the Pennsy 
[Pennsylvania Railroad] line there are tramps who not 
only bum within a division, but inside of subdivisions, 
and can chew whenever they like. But they do this 
'cause they 're foxy and have had their boozin' knocked 
out of them. Now, those lads that we left back in 
Utica will more than likely get sloughed into jail when 

28o Tramping with Tramps 

they get to boozin'. You can't expect the people to 
stand such stuff as that. And these are the kind of 
fellows, too, who jigger our ridin' on this railroad. 
They get drunk, and if they want to ride and can't find 
an empty car, they break a seal [a car Seal], and then 
there 's the devil to pay about the tramps tryin' to 
rob the cars. If the bums would only keep sober once 
in a while, there would n't be a tramp pinched once 
a month. The bulls around here don't care to yank 
a tramp unless they have to. But what can they do 
when they find a bloke paradin' the streets with a jag 
on? They pull him in, o' course, or else the people 
would kick. I '11 gamble that he would n't be touched, 
though, if he were simply huntin' a meal." 

In Syracuse, Biddy, in order to prove his acquain- 
tance with the town, told me of a house where I was 
certain of getting something to eat. I followed his 
instructions, and got exactly what I went for— a good 
dinner. The great excitements in Syracuse, I found, 
were a big drunk and the State fair. I have never 
seen such a number of tramps together at one time. 
Between De Witt and Syracuse there was a camp of 
fifty, and there were twenty empty beer-kegs lying 
around in the grass. Some of the fellows were sick, 
others had sick clothes, and many of the rest were in 
fine shape for a free fight. There were two well- 
dressed tramps whom I immediately recognized as 
"fawny men"— fellows who sell bogus jewelry for 
more than it is worth. One of these men was a notori- 
ous roadster of American birth, who, for purposes best 
known to himself, went by the name of '' Liverpool 
George." He is the most successful fawny man that I 

The Tramp at Home 281 

have ever met. He earned twenty-two dollars in one 
day at the fair by selling for two dollars apiece rings 
which can be bought in Buffalo for two dollars a dozen. 
The tramps call this worldly success. 

Before I left Syracuse there came to the camp an- 
other batch of tramps numbering sixteen. They had 
just returned from the hop-country, and their money 
was well poised for another ^' shot at the growler." 
During my stay of three days at the camp and vicinity, 
the men were intoxicated almost all the time. They 
would even go into town half drunk to look for some- 
thing to eat. Yet I heard of no arrest while I was 
there. About a mile from the hang-out, and east of 
Syracuse, there were two barns in which the tramps 
slept. It was most amusing to see the loafers return- 
ing to their nests in the hay-loft night after night. 
Sometimes I listened to comical tales until the early 
hours of the morning. I was also the spectator of a 
number of fights. One particular barn where I spent 
two nights, near Syracuse, was a regular arena for 
fisticuffing and squabbling. The men were so cross 
and ill-tempered after their recent galas that they 
would quarrel on the slightest pretext. One fellow 
gave his companion a black eye because he told him 
that he " ought to hustle better togs" (clothes). An- 
other poor excuse for a knock-down was that a fel- 
low had said that ^Hramps were bughouse" (crazy). 

The journey from Syracuse to Buffalo was very 
prosaic. I rode from Syracuse to Rochester with a 
kid and two colored tramps. The boy was in search 
of his '^jocker," or protectoi-, whom he had lost in 
Albany. From various registries at watering-tanks, 

282 Tramping with Tramps 

he expected to find him in Canal Street, Buffalo. At 
Port Byron a female tramp, with her companion, Mil- 
waukee Jim, entered the box-car in which we were 
riding. I learned from him that I must be very care- 
ful in my conduct at Rochester. I decided to leave 
the town as quickly as possible after arrival. On the 
eastern outskirts of the place I met a gang of twenty- 
three tramps walking to Fairport, ten miles distant, 
in order to escape any possible arrest in the Rochester 
railroad yards while catching a freight-train bound 
east. Between Rochester and Churchville I found 
still another frightened crowd numbering twenty- 
seven. They were waiting for nightfall before enter- 
ing the city to board a train for Albany. 

The kid continued with me on the journey to Buf- 
falo, and I enjoyed a talk with him in the car about 
his life on the road and what inducements it offered. 
He was only sixteen j^ears of age, but as bright and 
well versed in tramp lore as many an aged roadster. 
He became interested in tramp life in the Illinois Re- 
formatory. Some of his companions at the school, 
who had been with tramps, told him of their experi- 
ences, and he never rested until he had satisfied him- 
self with his own. ^' It ain't such a bad lot," he said ; 
'■'■ I chew every day, get a big swag of booze once in 
a while, and when I 'm travelin' with Slim [his pro- 
tector] I have a purty excitin' time." The boy found 
his man in Canal Street, just as he had expected. 

Buffalo did not interest me. There was nothing 
new in the tramp line. I counted sixty-seven road- 
sters, and found that there was plenty to eat and drink 
and a little money also, if looked for very diligently 


The Tramp at Home 285 

in the main streets and offices ; but there was nothing 
unique. My journey, when I arrived in Buffalo, had 
extended over three hundred miles (from Albany). I 
had had three meals every day, excepting the loss of 
a dinner while traveling from Rochester to Buffalo, 
and I had met three hundred tramps, who had prob- 
ably had their meals just as frequently as I had had 
mine. This number does not include, of course, those 
who may have been traveling behind or before me, so 
that, not counting men who were certainly on the 
road, but out of my sight, here was a voluntary va- 
grant for every mile of the road between Albany and 
Buffalo. Further, I did not see a train going west on 
the Central Railroad that was not carrying at least 
one tramp, and I often saw a car passing by which 
appeared simply alive with dead-beats. The reader 
must remember withal that New York State is by no 
means such good tramp territory as certain other 
States. Pennsylvania supports three times as many 
vagrants as New York will tolerate. 

Two extenuating statements ought to be made. In 
the first place, the Central Railroad is a very easy one 
to beat, and probably half of the tramps that I met 
were " residents " of other States. Secondly, a great 
many tramps loaf around the hop-country in the 
vicinity of Syracuse and Utica during the early au- 
tumn, in order to drink at the expense of the too 
light-hearted hop-pickers. The nationality of these 
men, so far as I could judge from pronunciation, some 
of their own statements, and their professional names, 
was almost entirely American. I met one German 
loafer called " Dutchy," and he was the only recog- 


286 Tramping with Tramps 

nized foreigner that I found. The others may have 
had parents born in other countries, but they them- 
selves were certainly Americanized. A good test of 
a tramp's nationality is his professional name. For 
every genuine hobo couples the name of his birthplace 
with whatever other name he chooses, and the reader 
will find, if he wiU visit watering-tanks or other avail- 
able stationary railway property in his vicinity, like 
section-houses, shanties, etc., where tramps "sign," 
that the names registered there indicate, in the 
great majority of cases, a birthplace in the United 

My return journey to New York is worthy of com- 
ment only because its quick performance may possi- 
bly interest the reader. I was desirous of learning 
how quickly a tramp can make a journey if he desires ; 
and it being to my interest to be in New York at an 
early date, I decided to forego any specific study of 
tramp life on the Erie Railroad and simply to hurry 
over its tracks, if haste should prove possible. I left 
Buffalo for New York on the night of the 16th, and 
arrived on the morning of the 19th, although I took 
a very circuitous route. I traveled from Buffalo to 
Corry, Pennsylvania, over the W. N. Y. & P. R. R., and 
from Corry I rode to Binghamton over the Erie road. 
From this place I made a detour to Voorheesville, 
and then down the West Shore route to Weehawken, 
in order to confirm certain rumors that I had heard 
of its hostility to tramps. The entire trip was very 
tiresome and difficult, because, in order to travel 
rapidly, I was compelled to ride on top and on 
the bumpers of freight-trains, and on the trucks 

The Tramp at Home 287 

of passenger-trains. My companion, Pennsylvania 
Wliitey, and I rode after the latter fashion from 
Elmira to Binghamton. It was a terrible ride. We 
made the mistake of getting on the trucks of the 
rear car— a Pullman sleeper— instead of a baggage- 
car. In doing this we suffered almost beyond de- 
scription. The gravel and dust flew about our faces 
until the exasperation and pain were fearful. When 
I arrived in Binghamton my eyes were filled with 
dust, and I suffered with them for days after I ar- 
rived in New York. There are tramps, principally 
in the W^est, who are much more skilful truck-riders 
than I can claim to be. But then they have to excel 
in this mode of traveling, or they could not get over 
the country. In the far West the brakemen have 
no scruples about throwing tramps off freight-trains. 
In the East more civilized customs prevail, and the 
t tramp is politely asked to '^ jump off after the train 
has stopped." Because railroad civilization is so back- 
ward in the West, the tramps have invented a seat 
which greatly aids their truck-riding. They call it 
a ''ticket," but it is simply a small piece of board, with 
two cleats nailed on one side, which fit over a rod 
and keep the seat firm. Some of these tickets are 
quite elaborate, and are made to fold into a coat 

The journey from Yoorheesville to Weehawken 
proved interesting. My friend Whitey and I left 
Voorheesville for Coeyman's Junction on a local 
freight-train. We were on a flat-car, and entirely 
open to view, but were not once molested. During 
the ride I got a cinder in my eye, which my compan* 

288 Tramping with Tramps 

ion could not find. The pain was intense, and when 
we stopped next at a small station we jumped off in 
order that Whitey might inspect it more conveniently. 
He was still unsuccessful, and the station-master, 
standing b}^, beckoned me toward him and offered to 
take the cinder out, which he did very skilfully. The 
train was just ready to start when he called out, 
^' Boys, don't miss your train." We followed his 

From the Junction down to Weehawken we under- 
went many trials. We left Coeyman's with fifteen 
other tramps on a through freight- train. All of us 
were huddled together on a flat-car, and of course 
the brakeman saw us. After finding out that none of 
us had any money to give him in aid of his collection 
for a '^pint" (of whisky), he said: ''You lads want 
to look out at Kingston. It 's all right until Catskill, 
but you '11 get collared at Kingston unless you 're 
careful." The minute the train slackened its speed at 
the hostile town, the roadsters jumped off en masse. 
Whitey suggested that we separate from the crowd, 
run around to the other end of the railroad yards, and 
catch the train again when it came out. We arrived 
there just in the nick of time, and rode away again 
triumphant. The next stop was Newburg, and just 
before we arrived the brakeman again warned us. 
'' Look out here/' he said, from the top of a car ; " if 
you get pinched here, you 're sure for the Albany 
pen." We left the train again, and manoeuvered in 
the same way as at Kingston. Again we traveled 
on without fear until nearing Haverstraw, and then 
came that same warning from the top of a car: 

The Tramp at Home 289 

'' Look out, you lads down there on the bumpers ; 
Ilaverstraw is a hostile town." This was sickening. 
I had not complained before, but now I told Whitey 
that if ever I arrived in Weehawken safely I should 
forever forbid myself to tramp near the Hudson 
River. We were eventually successful in passing 
Haverstraw, and then the brakeman assured us that 
there was a safe route into Weehawken. His words 
proved true, and we arrived there at three o'clock in 
the morning. The puzzling question that I put to 
Whitey now was how to get over to New York with- 
out a cent of money. He told me not to worry, and 
that he would ^'work it all right." He spoke the 
truth, for we slipped into the ferry-house from the 
West Shore Railroad yards, and so eluded the sleepy 
gate-keeper. When we were on the ferry-boat I noticed 
four more tramps that I had met in Syracuse, and of 
course there was a general laugh. 

On landing at Jay Street, Whitey asked me where I 
was going. I told him that I was afraid we must part 
company, and that I should have to walk up to Har- 
lem. '^ I hate to see you do that," he said. '' for it 's ag'in' 
the tramp natur' to like to hear of drilling [walking]. 
If you '11 wait for me up here on Broadway, I '11 go over 
to the post-office and hustle your car-fare." I thanked 
him, and waited on a corner for about five minutes, 
when, true enough, he returned with sufficient money 
for car-fare and slight refreshments over in the Bow- 
ery together. '^ Whitey, so long," I said ; '• be good 
to yourself." " So long. Cigarette ; hope I '11 see you 
again." I left him standing in front of the Old Tree 
House, our ways henceforth forever separate, but as 

290 Tramping with Tramps 

kindly sentiments inliabiting our bosoms as ever fell 
to the lot of knights of the road. 

For every voluntary vagrant there is a voluntary 
taxpayer, and in the persons of these three hundred 
tramps I met three hundred voluntarily taxed citizens 
of the State of New York 


FIVE years had elapsed since my last journey 
with the hoboes— indeed, since I had so much as 
seen them. Study and recreation took me to Europe 
in the autumn of 1893, and I did not return to this 
country till the spring of 1898. Newspaper clippings 
containing accounts of the movements of the hoboes, 
and stories about their life, occasionally reached me, 
and once there came an invitation to be present at an 
Anti-Tramp Congress, but beyond this I heard very / 
little about my old companions of the road. I always 
thought of them, however, when I saw the European 
vagabond trudging along on the public turnpikes, 
and wondered whether they were still permitted to 
travel on the railroads in their " side-door Pullmans " 
(box-cars) as they had done, and as they taught me 
to do when I was among them. In eastern Prussia I 
once stopped to talk with a foot-sore old wanderer on 
the Chaussee, and told him of the way the American 
tramp travels. " Ach, how beautiful that must be ! " 
he exclaimed. " And to think that they would prob- 
ably hang us poor fellows here in the Fatherland 
if we should try to ride in that fashion ! In truth, 


292 Tramping with Tramps 

son, a republic is the only place for the poor and 

There had been rumors, while I was still on the 
road, that a day of reckoning was coming between the 
railroad companies and the tramps, and that when 
it arrived, the hobo, like the ChausseegrahentapezireVj 
would take to the turnpikes. Life in Hoboland is so 
precarious that it comes natural to the inhabitants to 
be on the watch for impending catastrophes, and I 
remember that I also believed that the railroad com- 
panies would eventually stop free riding as the tramp 
practised it. It did not seem natural that a class of 
people with so little influence as the tramps should be 
allowed to enjoy such a privilege long ; and although 
I learned to ride in freight-cars with as much peace 
of mind and often more comfort than in passenger- 
coaclies, there was always something strange to me in 
the fact that I never bought a ticket. During my 
first trip in Hoboland, which lasted eight continuous 
months, I must easily have traveled over twenty thou- 
sand miles, and there were not more than ten occa- 
sions during the entire experience when any payment 
was demanded of me, and on those occasions the 
'^ medium of exchange" consisted of such things as 
pipes, neckties, tobacco, and knives. Once I had to 
trade shoes with a brakeman merely to get across the 
Missouri River, a trip which ordinarily would have 
cost me but ten cents ; but as that was the very sum 
of which I was short, and the brakeman wanted my 
shoes, the only thing to do was to trade. 

Had any one told me, as I was leaving Europe, that 
a week after my arrival in this country I should be 

The Tramp and the Railroads 293 

"hitting the road" again, I should not have believed 
him. Civilization had become very dear to me in the 
interval that had elapsed since my last tramp trip, 
and it seemed to me that my vagabond days were 

Once a vagabond, however, like the reserve Prus- 
sian soldier, a man can always be called on for duty ; ^ / 
and it was my fate, a few days after setting foot in 
my native land again, to be asked by the general 
manager of one of our railroads to make a report to 
him on the tramp situation on the lines under his con- 
trol. For three years he had been hard at work 
organizing a railroad police force which was to rid the 
lines under his control of the tramp nuisance, and he 
believed that he was gradually succeeding in his task ; 
but he wanted me to go over his property and give an 
independent opinion of what had been done. He had 
read some of my papers in the '^ Century " on tramp 
life, and while reading them it had occurred to him 
that I might be able to gather information for him 
which he could turn to good account, and he sent 
for me. 

" On assuming management of these lines," he said 
to me in the conversation we had in his office, " I found 
that our trains were carrying thousands of trespassers, 
and that our freight-cars were frequently being robbed. 
I considered it a part of my business as a general 
manager to do my utmost to relieve the company of 
this expense, and I felt that the company owed it to 
the public to refuse to harbor this criminal class of 
people. In a way a railroad may be called the chief 
citizen of a State, and in this tramp matter it seemed 

294 Tramping with Tramps 

to me that it had a duty as a citizen to discharge to 
the State. 

'' There are three conspicuous reasons that have de- 
terred railroad people from attacking the tramp prob- 
lem. First, it has been thought that it would entail 
a very great expense. Our experience on these lines 
has shown that this fear was not warranted. Second, 
it has been thought that no support would be given 
the movement by the local magistrates and police 
authorities. Our experience shows that in a great 
majority of cases we have the active support of the 
local police authorities and that the magistrates have 
done their full duty. Third, it was feared that there 
might be some retaliation by the tramps. Up to date 
we have but very little to complain of on that score. 
From the reports that I get from my men, I am led to 
believe that we are gradually ridding not only the 
railroad property, but much of the territory in which 
it is situated, of the tramp nuisance ; but I should like 
a statement from you in regard to the situation, and 
I want to know whether you are willing to make a 
tramp trip and find out for us all that you can." 

It was a cold, bleak day in March when we had this 
conversation, and there was ever}^ inducement to post- 
pone a journey such as the general manager sug- 
gested ; but I was so impressed with his seriousness in 
the matter, and so thoroughly interested in what he 
had done, that I agreed to begin the investigation at 
once. It seemed to me that a man who had written so 
r/ much about the tramp problem ought to be willing to 
do what he could to help the community solve it, es- 
pecially when he was to be reimbursed for his work 

laniNc ox Tin; lUMri-Ks. 

The Tramp and the Railroads 297 

as liberally as I was to be ; and although I suffered 
more on this particular journey than on any other 
that I have made, I shall never regret having under- 
taken it. 

Before starting out on my travels a contract was 
drawn up between the general manager and myself. 
It secured to me a most satisfactory daily wage, and 
to the general manager weekly reports as long as I 
was out on the road, wdth a final statement when the 
investigation should be finished. 

On no previous journey in Hoboland have I been 
such an object of curiosity to the tramps as on this 
one when writing my weekly reports. I was dressed 
so badly that I could write them only in lodging- 
houses where vagabonds sojourn, and it usually took 
me a full half -hour to finish one. It availed nothing 
to pick out a quiet corner, for the men gathered about 
me the minute they thought I had written enough, 
and they thought this before I was half through. If 
they had been able to decipher my handwriting I 
should probably have received pretty harsh treatment, 
but as they were not, they amused themselves with 
funny remarjks. "Give 'er my love," they said. 
'^Writin' yer will, are ye. Cigarette?" "Break the 
news gently." And they made other similar remarks 
which, if I h^d not been forced to write, would have 
smothered any literary aspirations that a lodging- 
house is capable of arousing. As it was, I managed 
to send in my reports more or less regularly, and 
faulty though they must have been, they served their 

They told the story of the tramp situation on about 

298 Tramping with Tramps 

two thousand miles of railroad property, situated in 
five different States. The reports of the first month 
of the investigation pertained to tramps on lines in 
the neighborhood of the property I was investigating. 
I had not been an hour on m}'' travels when it was 
made very plain to me that my employer's police force 
was so vigilant that it behooved me not to be caught 
riding trains unauthorized on his lines. Every tramp 
I met warned me against this particular road, and 
although a clause in my contract secured me the pay- 
ment by the company of all fines that might be im- 
posed upon me as a trespasser, as well as my salary 
during imprisonment, in case I should find it useful 
for my purposes to go to jail, I found it more con- 
venient for the first month to wander about on rail- 
roads which I knew tramps could get over. I rea- 
soned that the experience was going to be hard enough 
anyhow, without having to dodge a railroad police 
officer every time I boarded a train, and I knew that 
the trespassers on neighboring lines would be able to 
tell me what was the general opinion in regard to 
my employer's road as a tramp thoroughfare. All 
whom I interviewed spoke of it as the hardest railroad 
in the United States for a tramp to beat, and I could 
not have learned more of the tramps' opinion of it had 
I remained exclusively on the property. The roads 
that I went over crossed and recrossed my employer's 
road at a number of places, and I was frequently able 
to see for myself that it is a closed line for trespassers. 
It may interest the reader to know how I lived dur- 
ing the time I traveled as a tramp. Except on one 
occasion, when my funds gave out, I paid my way 

The Tramp and the Railroads 299 

regularly so far as food was concerned. A friend 
sent me a postal order for a few dollars nearly every 
week, and I managed to live rather comfortably at 
lodging-house restaurants. Occasionally I would meet 
a pal of former years, and if he had money, or 
found that I had, nothing would do but we should 
celebrate meeting each other again, and at such times 
my friend in the East got word that my remittance 
must be hurried up somewhat ; but, as a general thing, 
I dined fairly well on two dollars a week. For sleep- 
ing-quarters I had bunks in lodging-houses, benches in 
police stations, and '^ newspaper beds" in railroad 
sand-houses. I chose one of these places as circum- 
stances suggested. If there was nothing to be gained 
in the way of information by going to a sand-house or 
a police station, I took in a lodging-house, if one was 
handy. Once I slept in the tramp ward of a poor- 
house, and never had I spent a more disagreeable 
night. A crowd of tramps to which I had attached 
myself had used up their welcome in a town where 
there were three police stations, and it had been ar- 
ranged that on the night in question we should all 
meet at the tramp ward of the poorhouse. A negro 
was the first one to get there, and a more frightened 
human being than he was when the rest of us put in an 
appearance it would be hard to imagine. We found 
him in a cold cellar, absolutely without light and 
furnished with nothing but an immense bench, about 
four feet wide, four feet high, and ten feet long. In 
Siberia itself I have never seen a gloomier hole for 
men to pass a night in. 

" I turned up here 'bout five o'clock," the negro said, 

300 Tramping with Tramps 

^''n' they sent me to the smokin'-room, where them 
luny blokes was smokiii' their pipes. I never knew 
before that they sent luny people to poorhouses, 'n' I 
could n't understan' it. I told one of 'em what I was 
there for, 'n' he told me that this cellar down here has 
ghosts in it. Well, o' course, I ain't 'feard o' ghosts in 
most places, but, by jiniiny, when the keeper came 'n' 
put me down here 'n' left me in the cold 'n' dark, some- 
how or other I got to thinkin' o' that luny bloke's 
stories, 'n' I jus' had to holler. W'y, I never felt so 
queer before in my life. Suppose I 'd gone crazy; 
w'y, I could 'a' sued the county for damages, could n't 
I? Don't you ever soogest any more poorhouses to 
me ; I don't wonder people goes crazy in 'em." When 
the crowd first saw the negro he was shouting at the 
top of his voice : " Spirits ! spirits ! There 's spooks 
down here ! " 

We all spent a most miserable night in the cellar, 
and I doubt whether any one of us would willingly 
seek shelter there again. 

Indeed, when the first month of my investigation 
was over, and war had been declared with Spain, it 
seemed to me that I had gone through so much and 
was so hardened that I could go to Cuba and worry 
through all kinds of trouble. I have since regretted 
that I did not go, but, at the time, I had become so 
interested in the work that, when I returned to my 
employer for further orders, and he said to me, 
^'Well, now that you have satisfied me in regard to 
the attitude of the tramp toward the company's prop- 
erty, suppose you satisfy yourself concerning the at- 
titude of the company toward the tramp," I readily 




'^ University vv 

V% Toronto 

The Tramp and the Raihoads 301 

fell in with the suggestion. To make my final report 
complete it was obvious that I ought to get an insight 
into the workings of my employer's police force, and 
for the second month he gave me permission to travel 
on freight- trains, engines, and passenger-trains, and a 
letter introducing me to the different employees of the 
company with whom I was likely to come in contact. 
With these credentials I was able to circulate freely 
over the property, to inquire minutely into the work 
of the police department, to meet the local magistrates, 
and particularly the jail- and workhouse-keepers. It 
was also possible for me to make an actual count of 
the trespassers who were daring enough to attempt to 
travel on this closed road. 

This work was not so tedious and dangerous as that 
of the first month, and there were more comforts to 
be enjoyed; but I had to be up at all hours of the 
night, and the bulk of my time was spent in train-rid- 
ing. After thirty days of almost constant travel I 
was convinced, first, that the tramps had told the truth 
about the road, and that it is exceedingly difficult to 
trespass on it with impunity; second, that although 
the police force is not perfect (none is), it was doing 
exceptionally good work in freeing the community of 
tramps and beggars. It differs from ordinary rail- 
road police forces in that it is systematically organized 
and governed. In dealing with tramps and trespass- 
ers the plan is to keep up a continuous surveillance of 
them, and they are taken off trains one by one, day 
after day, rather than in squads of fifty and sixty, 
with no more effort in this direction for weeks and 
sometimes months, as is the prevailing custom on 


302 Tramping with Tramps 

most railroads. There is consequently very little 
crowding of magistrates' courts and jails, and the 
taxpayers are not forced to board and lodge a great 
collection of vagabonds. I was also impressed with 
the fact that the force is on friendly relations with 
municipal and village police organizations along the 
road, and has the respect of communities formerly at 
the mercy of a constantly increasing army of hoboes. 

So much for my personal experience and finding in 
this latest investigation in '' trampology"} it was as 
interesting a tramp trip as I have ever made, and I 
learned more about the best methods to employ in 
attacking the tramp problem in this country than on 
any previous journey. It is now my firm belief that, 
if the tramps can be kept off the railroads, their 
organization will become so unattractive that it will 
never again appeal to men as it has done in the past. 
No other country in the world transports its beggars 
from place to place free of charge, and there is no 
reason why this country should do so. 

The custom has grown up in the United States dur- 
ing the last thirty years. Before the Civil War there 
were comparatively few tramps in America, and prac- 
tically no railroad tramps. After the war there sud- 
denly appeared on the scene a large class of men who 
had become so enamoured of camp life that they found 
it impossible to return to quiet living, and they took 
to wandering about the country. Occasionally they 
worked a little to keep themselves in "pin-money," 
but by 1870 hundreds of them had given up all in- 
tention of working, and had founded the organization 
known to-day as the "Hobo-Push." By that year. 

The Tramp and the Railroads 303 

also, they had discovered that our turnpikes, par- 
ticularly in the West, were very poor roads to travel 
on, and they began to walk on the railroad-track. 

If, at this time, the railroad companies had had laws 
passed, such as are in force to-day in Great Britain 
and on the Continent, forbidding everybody but an 
employee to walk on railroad property, except at pub- 
lic crossings, we should have learned, ere this, to obey 
them, and the railroad tramp would not have been 
developed. These laws not being enacted, however, 
it was not long before it became very clear to the 
tramp that it would be much more comfortable to sit 
in a box-car and ride, than to " drill" (walk) over the 
ties. An appreciation of this character is acted upon 
very soon in Hoboland, and by 1875 the majority of 
the professional vagrants were taking lessons in jump- 
ing on and off moving freight-trains. The trainmen, 
partly because they thought that many of these tres- 
passers were deserving but penniless out-of-works, 
and partly on account of the inborn willingness of 
every American to help a man in unfortunate circum- 
stances, made practically no serious effort to keep the 
tramp off their trains, and by 1880 the latter was 
accepted by railroad companies as an unavoidable ^ 
nuisance on railroad property. 

To-day it is the boast of the hoboes that they can 
travel in every State of the Union for a mill per mile, 
while in a number of States they pay nothing at all. 
On lines where brakemen demand money of them, ten 
cents is usually sufficient to settle for a journey of 
a hundred miles, and twenty cents often secures a 
night's ride. They have different methods of riding, 


304 Tramping with Tramps 

among which the favorite is to steal into an empty 
box-car on a freight-train. At night this is compara- 
tively easy to do ; on many roads it is possible to 
travel this way, undisturbed, till morning. If the 
train has no '' empties," they must ride on top of the 
car, between the '' bumpers," on one of the car lad- 
ders, or on the rods. On passenger-trains they ride 
on top, on the '^ blind baggage," and on the trucks. 

Taking this country by and large, it is no exaggera- 
tion to say that every night in the year ten thousand 
free passengers of the tramp genus travel on the 
different railroads in the ways mentioned, and that 
ten thousand more are waiting at watering-tanks and 
in railroad yards for opportunities to get on the trains. 
I estimate the professional tramp population at about 
sixty thousand, a third of whom are generally on the 

In summer the entire tramp fraternity may be said 
to be ^4n transit." The average number of miles 
traveled daily by each man at this season of the year 
is about fifty, which, if paid for at regular rates, 
would cost, say, a dollar. Of course one should not 
ordinarily pay so much to ride in a box-car as in a 
passenger-coach, but the ordinary tramp is about as 
comfortable in one as in the other, and, on the dollar- 
a-trip basis, he and his 59,999 companions succeed in 
getting out of the railroad companies sixty thousand 
dollars' worth of free transportation every day that 
they all travel. Multiply this figure by a hundred, 
which is about the number of days in a year when all 
trampdom '^ flits," and you have an approximate idea 
of how much they gain. 


The Tramp and the Railroads 307 

Another serious loss to the railroads is that involved 
in the disappearance of goods undergoing transporta- 
tion, and in claims for personal injuries. Some tramps 
steal, and some do not, but every year considerable 
thefts are made from freight-cars, and tramps, or men 
posing as such, are generally the guilty parties. Pro- 
fessional thieves frequently become tramps for a time, 
both to minimize their guilt and to elude capture, and 
the probability is that the majority of the greater 
thefts are committed by them. Tramps proper are 
discouraged thieves, and I have seldom known them 
to steal anything more valuable than fruit from freight- 
cars and metal from idle engines. In a year's time, 
however, including all the thefts committed by both 
tramps and professional thieves, a very appreciable 
loss results to the railroads, and I can recall, out of 
my observation, robberies which have amounted to 
several thousand dollars. 

That railroad companies should have to reimburse 
trespassers for the loss of a hand or foot while riding 
unauthorized on trains will strike every one as a very 
unjust tax on their resources, but such claims are con- 
stantly made. Let us say, for example, that a young 
boy who has been stealing his way on a freight-train 
loses a leg. There is a type of lawyer who at once 
takes up a case of this sort, going to the boy's parents 
or relatives and suggesting to them the advisability 
of claiming damages, asserting his readiness to serve 
them in the matter. ^'All right," says the father; 
" get what you can." In court the lawyer draws a 
horrible picture of these engines of death, the rail- 
roads, showing how they are constantly killing people. 

308 Tramping with Tramps 

If the boy's father is poor, this fact is also brought 
graphically to the attention of the jury, and the wealth 
of the corporation is described as something enormous. 
If the lawyer manages his case cleverly, making out 
that the boy was enticed on to the freight-train by 
the trainmen, or that he fell under the wheels through 
their carelessness, there are but few juries that will 
refuse to give the father at least enough damages to 
pay the lawyer's fee and the doctor's bill, and then 
there is a celebration over having ^' squeezed" another 
railroad company. For a private person to be com- 
pelled by a court to pay damages to the father of a 
boy who fell from an apple-tree in the private person's 
orchard, where the lad was an obvious trespasser and 
thief, would be considered an outrage. 

I bring out these facts about the losses to the rail- 
roads in some detail because the public is really the 
railroad company, and consequently the sufferer. 

To tell all that the country at large suffers from 
the free railroad transportation of tramps would 
take me beyond the limits of this chapter, but there 
are a few points which must be noted. In the first 
place, the railroads spread the tramp nuisance over a 
much greater stretch of territory than would be the 
case if the tramps were limited to the turnpikes. 
There are districts in the United States which are so 
difficult to reach by the highroad, on account of un- 
profitable intermediate territory, that the hobo would 
never attempt to go near them if it were not easy for 
him to get over the disagreeable parts of the journey 
in a box-car. Take the trip from Denver to San 
Francisco, for instance. There is not a vagabond in 

The Tramp and the Railroads 309 

the country who would undertake to walk across the 
American Desert merely to reach '^'Frisco," and if 
walking were the only way to get to that city it would 
be left largely to ''coast beggars." As matters now 
stand, however, you may see a beggar one day in Fifth 
Avenue in New York city, and a fortnight later he 
will accost you in Market Street in San Francisco. 
Many tramps can travel as rapidly as the man who 
pays his way, and I have known those who could even 
"hold down" the Chicago Limited from Jersey City 
to Chicago without a break. 

All this contributes to the difficulty of locating and 
capturing the dangerous characters of tramp life ; and, 
as I have said, many professional criminals, who have 
nothing to do with beggars in other quarters, mix 
with them in freight-cars. 

A remark, in this connection, of Mr. Allen Pinkerton 
is popular in Hoboland. He is reported by the hoboes 
to have once said, in a conversation about the capture 
of criminals, that he thought he could catch, in time, 
almost any kind of criminal except the tramp, and 
him he could not catch because it was so difficult to 
locate him. '' One day he is in a barn, the next in a 
haystack, and the next Heaven only knows where he 
is, for he has probably got on to the railroad, and 
there you might as well look for a lost pin." 

The railroads also help to keep the tramp element 
in our large cities. It very seldom settles in the 
country, and not for any length of time in provincial 
towns. New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, 
San Francisco, Buffalo, Baltimore, New Orleans, and 
other like places are its main strongholds. The more 

210 Tramping with Tramps 

the criminal element of a country fastens itself upon 
its cities, the harder it is to break up, and in the 
United States this is what is taking place. Chicago, 
for instance, is as much a center in the criminal as in 
the business world, and almost every freight-train 
entering it brings a contribution to its criminal popu- 
lation. Even without railroads the tendency of crime 
to predominate in towns would exist ; evil-doers feel 
more at home in city streets and haunts than in the 
country 5 but their present strength in our cities is 
largely due to the free transportation they get from 
the railroads. 

Another striking fact is that out-of-works who 
beat their way on freight-trains very easily degen- 
erate into professional vagabonds. I have traveled 
^■^ I with men who, in six months' time, had become volun- 
tary vagrants merely because their first stolen rides, 
while in search of work, had demonstrated to them 
how easy it is to manage without working and pay- 
ing their way. The average unemployed man in the 
United States goes from one large city to another, 
rather than, as is the custom in Europe, taking in the 
intermediate towns and villages, where there is no 
such likelihood of the labor-market becoming con- 
gested. In a few weeks, unless he is a man of very 
strong character he learns to travel merely for travel's 
/ sake, and develops into a " stake-man," who only 
works long enough to get a " stake " and then go off 
on a trip again. Among the so-called unemployed in 
this country there are thousands of this type, and 
they are the result of this love of side-door Pullman 




The Tramp and the Railroads 313 

There is one more fact which cannot be overlooked ' 
— the temptation which the railroads have for a ro- 
mantic and adventuresome boy. A child possessed of 
Wanderlust generally wanders for a while, anyhow, 
but the chance he now has to jump on a freight- train 
and " get into the world quick," as I have heard lads 
of this temperament remark, has a great deal to do in 
tempting him to run away from home. Hoboland is X 
overrun with youngsters who have got there on the 
raili'oads, and very few of them ever wander back to 
their parents. Once started "railroading," they go 
on and on, and its attractions seem to increase as the 
years go by. Walking has no such charms for them, 
and if it were their only method of seeing the world, 
the majority of those who now keep on seeing it, until 
death ends their roaming, would grow tired. The 
raih'oad, however, makes it possible for them to keep 
shifting the scenes they enjoy, and, in time, change 
and variety become so essential that tbey are unable 
to settle down anywhere. They are victims of what 
tramps call the "railroad fever," a malady for which 
a remedy has yet to be prescribed. 

Can the tramps be driven off the railroads? It was 
to satisfy my own curiosity in regard to this question, 
and to find out how successful my employer, the gen- 
eral manager, had been in his attempt to answer it 
in the affirmative, that I undertook the investigation 
which I have described. Previous to his efforts to 
keep tramps off railroads, it had been thought, as he 
has stated, that it was cheaper to put up with them 
than to pay the bills which a crusade against them 

314 Tramping with Tramps 

would occasion. It has at last been demonstrated, 
however, that they can be refused free transportation, 
with a saving of expense to the company, and with 
great benefit to the community; and the time has 
come when the public should demand that all rail- 
roads take a similar stand in regard to this evil. 

If all the companies would take concerted action, 
in a few years very few tramps, if any, would try to 
beat their way on trains; an appreciable number 
would give up tramping entirely, because their rail- 
road privileges are to many the main attraction of the 
life ; a few would try to become professional crimi- 
nals again, partly out of revenge and partly because 
tramping on the turnpikes would be too disagreeable ; 
and a large number would take to the highways, where 
some at least might be made to do farm- work. The 
reader may take exception to the third possibility, and 
, think that great harm would come of an increase in 
/ the professional criminal class ; but, as I have said, 
tramps are really discouraged criminals, and a return 
to the old life, of which they had made a failure, 
would only land them in the penitentiary. 

It is probably impossible ever entirely to eliminate 
the vagrant element in a nation's life, and no such 
hope is held out in connection with the reform advo- 
cated in this article ; but this much is certain : had all 
the railroads been as closed to tramps, during my first 
excursions into Hoboland, as one of them has recently 
become, one man, at least, would not have attempted 
any free riding, and would not have found so many 
tramps to study. 





I. Old Boston Mary 317 

II. Jamie the Kid 336 

III. One Night on the "Q." 355 

IV. A Pulque Dream 366 

V. A Hobo Precedent 372 



ON the southern outskirts of the city of Boston, 
hidden away in a field, and reached by streets that 
gradually degenerated into straggling lanes, stood un- 
til a few years ago an old shanty, noted for nothing 
but loneliness and spooks. No one in the neighbor- 
hood knew to whom it belonged or what was its 
history. It was almost too forlorn to be interesting, 
and few went near it. The children in the district 
claimed that queer noises were heard in the shanty 
at night, and their mothers threatened them with its 
sheltered ghosts when they were especially naughty. 
But this was the extent of the shanty's reputation in 
its own parish. 

Its history, or at any rate so much of it as is known, 
is anything but romantic. When first built, it be- 
longed to a ^' Paddy " on the railroad ; and after vari- 
ous generations of this proprietary family had passed 
on to the better quarters that Boston provides for its 
ambitious Irish citizens, it became so dilapidated and 
forlorn that it was turned over to some cows pastured 
near by, as shelter for stormy days. It was still used 


318 Tramping with Tramps 

for this purpose, I am told, when Old Mary rented it. 
How she discovered it, and why it attracted her, are 
questions which even her best friends found difficult 
to solve. But there was something about it which 
appealed to her, and for several months she lived her 
queer life in this uninteresting old building. Her 
neighbors knew almost nothing about her, except 
that she was an eccentric old woman, and that she 
harbored a strange class of friends who might with 
greater propriety have lodged in the city almshouse. 
But otherwise she was a foreigner in her own province, 
and no one could tell what she did or how she lived. 
Strange, too; for in some respects this old creature 
was a most notorious character, and had perhaps as 
many acquaintances and friends as any citizen of 
Boston. Almost every evening, after dark, had there 
been curious eyes on watch, stragglers of many sizes 
and conditions might have been seen wending their 
way, stealthily and catlike, to her shanty, and ears 
alert might have heard a queer password tapped on 
the wooden door, which, as of its own free will, swung 
back on noiseless leather hinges, and, closing, hid the 
strangers from view. This went on night after night, 
and no resident of the neighborhood knew or cared 
much about it. Whatever was done in the shanty 
passed off so quietly and unobljrusively that public 
curiosity was not awakened. 

My first knowledge of the place was on this wise : 
One afternoon, while studying tramp life in New 
York, I dropped in for a moment at a popular resort 
of vagabonds in the Bowery. I had already had sev- 
eral months' experience in their company, and was 

Old Boston Mary 319 

casting about for some new feature or phase of the 
life ; naturally enough, I turned to the saloon to hear 
of something which would put me on a fresh track. 
As luck would have it, I chanced to overhear two 
Eastern beggars discussing the customs and institu- 
tions of Boston. Their conversation interested me, 
and I drew nearer. During their talk, reference was 
made to Old Mary's place, which I had never heard of 
elsewhere, and I determined to see it. 

It was not long before I had found a companion 
and persuaded him to accompany me to Boston. He 
also had heard of the place, and was fairly well ac- 
quainted with its mistress, who, he declared, had been 
a well-known hobo out West some years before. Her 
history, as he recollected it, and which I know now to 
be quite true, was something like this : 

About forty years ago, a Gipsy girl in England, 
who had wandered about with her tribe through 
France as well as Britain, came to America, hoping 
to find her Rom friends here strong enough to afford 
her society and protection. But for some reason she 
failed to meet with the welcome she had expected, and 
as there was nothing else in the New World more 
akin to her old life than the tramp's peripatetic exist- 
ence, she joined the brotherhood, and for over thirty 
years was recognized as a full-fledged member. Her 
specialty, the hobo said, was '^ridin' the trucks "5 and 
in this dangerous business she became an expert, and 
was probably the only woman in the world who ever 
made a practice of it. It may surprise some that a 
woman reared in Gripsy society, and accustomed to the 
rigorous social divisions which obtain there, should 


Tramping with Tramps 

ever have entered trampdom, composed almost en- 
tirely of men. It must be remembered, however, that 
there are women in all classes of society who are men's 
women, not women's women, and at the same time 
none the worse for their peculiarity. There is a cer- 
tain comradeship in their relations with men which 
even a stunted sense of honor will not abuse, and 
which adds piquancy to their friendship. 

The Gipsy girl was one of these, and had her friends 
as well as her lovers. The lovers failed as she grew 
older, but this strong-souled companionship stood her 
in good stead, and held the friends she made. She 
who had been so poorly cared for all her life long 
had developed somehow a genius for taking care of 
others, and so, after thirty years of hard riding and 
hard faring of all sorts, her head not quite clear about 
a good many things that human justice calls crime, 
she set up a poor, miserable home for the brotherhood 
of tramps. It was a crazy idea, perhaps, but the 
woman herself was pretty well '' crippled under the 
hat," my friend declared, and was known from Maine 
to California, in true tramp dialect, as "Bughouse 
Mary," or, as politer folk would say, " Crazy Mary." 

She settled herself at first in a tumble-down old 
tenement-house in the very heart of Boston, and her 
place soon became known— too well known, in fact 
—to certain officious and official personages who had 
on more than one occasion found dangerous charac- 
ters sheltered there. After some weeks she thought it 
necessary to move on, and pitched her tent on the spot 
already described. It was here that my companion 
and I first tested her sisterly welcome. A town tramp 

Old Boston Mary 321 

put us on the right road, and gave us explicit direc- 
tions. He advised us not to go by daylight, and 
asked, " Does you blokes know the rules out at Mary's 1 
I guess she 'd take you in anyhow, but mos' the blokes, 
when they goes out there, takes along a handful o' ter- 
bakker an' a chunk o' beef or somethin' else ter chew. 
She alius 'xpects her half, too. It 's a sort o' law out 
there, 'n' p'r'aps you lads 'u'd better do as I tells ye." 

We followed his advice, and I looked for some 
beefsteak, while my companion found the tobacco 
and bread. About nine o'clock we started, and spent 
fully an hour in finding the place. At the door, as we 
knew of no especial knock, I whispered through one 
of the cracks the word ^' Hobo," knowing that this was 
the usual tramp call. We soon heard a queer voice 
asking our names. 

'^ Cigarette," I replied. 

" What Cigarette ? " asked the voice. 

I assured her that it was the Chicago brand. 

This was sufficient, and the door opened far enough 
to allow us to squeeze through, and we were in the 
famous Boston hang-out. 

The first attraction, of course, was Mary herself, and 
she was well worth a longer pilgrimage. I shall never 
forget the picture she made, as she stood in the middle 
of the floor surrounded by her pals, and welcomed 
us to her shanty. Her figure, although naturally 
strong and straight, looked cramped and bent, and 
had certainly suffered from long exposure and the 
hardships of truck-riding. Her dress, although pictur- 
esque in some particulars, looked just as tattered and 
worn out as did her poor old body. The original cloth 

322 Tramping with Tramps 

and color of the skirt, if indeed it had ever had any, 
were disguised by fully a dozen different patches sewed 
on with coarse, straggling, Gipsy-like stitches. In 
place of a waist she wore an old coat and vest, given 
to her, as I afterward learned, by a clergyman. The 
coat was soldier's blue, and the vest as red as a robin's 
breast. A strange costume, it is true ; but as I looked at 
her, it seemed, after all, a fitting one for such a unique 
being. The head that topped the costume was most 
interesting of all : a certain pose in moments of en- 
thusiasm, and a certain toss at the climax of some 
story relating her early triumphs, gave it an air of 
wild nobility such as one sees in high-bred animals j 
and when, in the consciousness of her weakened 
powers, it dropped sadly on her breast, with the 
ragged gray locks streaming out in all directions, one 
could not escape the sense of fallen greatness in the 
gaunt bowed figure and the tortured face. 

Naturally she looked crazy, but I wished at the time 
that if crazy people must really exist, they might look 
like her. Her eyes were her most intelligent feature, 
and even they at times would become glazed and al- 
most uncanny. They were the most motherly, and 
also the wickedest, I have ever seen on the road. 
This sounds paradoxical, I know, but as I have heard 
other men describe them in the same way, I think I 
must be right. And when she looked at me I felt that 
she was piercing my character and history in every 
possible corner. I have no doubt that she intended 
to impress me in this way. It is a Gipsy trick, and 
she evidently had not forgotten it. 

But queer and crazy as Old Mary appeared, she was 

Old Boston Mary 323 

nevertheless quite in harmony with her environment ; 
for of all the odd hang-outs I have visited, hers was 
certainly the oddest. The shanty itself was in many 
respects just as the cows had left it, and the only 
furniture it contained was a stove, a few old benches, a 
greasy lamp, a supply of blankets, and a cupboard con- 
taining one or two frying-pans and some polished and 
renovated tomato-cans. These were all that the old 
Gipsy had been able to gather together, and it had 
cost her many days of fortune-telling to collect 
even these. But, fortunately^, it was not for such 
things that the beggars visited her. What they wanted 
was simply a place where thej^ could be away from 
the police, and in the company of Old Mary, whom 
they looked upon as a sort of guardian angel. On 
the night in question she had as guests men who 
represented nearly every kind of vagabondage. The 
" blanket-stife," the ^^ gay-cat," the ''shiny," the 
"Frenchy," and the "ex-prushun" were all there. 
Some were lying on the floor wrapped in their blan- 
kets; some were mending their coats and darning 
their socks; while others were sitting around the 
stove playing a quiet game of poker, using as an 
"ante" pieces of bread which they had begged. In 
a corner there were still others who were taking off 
their "jiggers," reminding one of that famous cour 
des miracles which Victor Hugo has described in 
"Notre Dame"; for the jiggers were nothing but 
bandages wound around the legs and arms to excite 
the sympathy of credulous and charitable people. 

Mary was exceedingly kind in her welcome to both 
my comrade and myself ; but on learning that I was 


324 Tramping with Tramps 

really the CMcago Cigarette she was a little partial to 
me, I think, and made me sit down on a bench, where 
we talked of various things and people, but especially 
of a St. Louis beggar called '^ Bud," who had spoken to 
her of a Cigarette with whom he once traveled. Learn- 
ing that I was the very same, and that we had at one 
time made a long journey in the West, she wanted to 
know just when I had seen him last, how he looked, 
and what he was doing. I could easily see, from the 
passionate way she spoke of him and her eagerness for 
late news concerning his whereabouts, that he had 
once been a pal of hers, and I had to tell her as gently 
as I could that the poor fellow had been starved to 
death in a box-car in Texas. Some one had locked 
him in, and when the car was shunted on to an unused 
side-track, far away from any house or station, his fate 
was settled. Try as one will to get out of such a pre- 
dicament, there is no hope unless one has a large 
knife and strength enough to cut through the walls. 
Poor Bud was without both, and he died alone and 
forsaken. I had heard of the accident from a man 
who was in the neighborhood where it happened ; and 
thinking that the best thing I could tell Old Mary 
would be the truth, I stammered it out in a most 
awkward fashion. 

I knew well enough that she would cry, but I hardly 
expected to see the sorrow that my story occasioned. 
It was almost indescribable. She wept and moaned, 
and swayed her old body back and forth in an agony 
of grief, but not once did she speak. I tried my best 
to comfort her, but it was of no use. She had to 
suffer, and no one could help her. I felt so bad that 

Old Boston Mary 325 

I almost started to leave, but one of the men told me 
that she would be all right pretty soon, and I waited. 
True, she did become calmer, and in about an hour 
was enough herself to talk about other matters 5 but 
there was a grief still in her eyes that was most pitiful 
to see. And I shall always remember her strange and 
inarticulate agony. It showed, not a comrade's be- 
reavement, nor yet the heart-wound of a motherly 
nature merely, but a phase of emotion belonging to 
younger hearts as well. I think also that there was a 
Gipsy strain in her suffering which I could not com- 
prehend at all. 

When fairly aroused from her sadness, she asked 
for our bundles of food, and made the men playing 
cards on the stove move away, that she might light a 
fire and cook our meal. While she attended to these 
things, I passed around among the tramps. The place 
hardly coincided with my expectations. I had looked 
forward to a rough hang-out, where there would be 
more fighting and cursing than anything else, but I 
found nothing of the kind. The men conducted 
themselves very respectably, at least while Mary was 
looking on. There were a few harsh words heard, of 
course, but there was none of that vulgarity that one 
would naturally expect, for the hostess forbade it. 
Not that she was a woman who had never heard bad 
words or seen vulgar sights, but there was something 
about her which certainly quieted and softened the 
reckless people she gathered together. What this 
was I cannot say, but I think it was her kindness. 
For if there is anything which a tramp respects, 
although he may forget it when it is out of his sight, 

326 Tramping with Tramps 

it is gentleness, and it was this trait in Old Mary's 
character which won for her the distinction and 
privileges usually accorded the mistress of the house. 
She did everything she could to make her shanty 
comfortable and her guests happy. For example, 
one man had a sore foot, and while the meat was 
frying she bandaged it most tenderly, making her 
patient lie down on a blanket which she took from 
a cupboard. Others wanted string or tobacco, and 
she invariably supplied them. She gave each one 
the impression that she was really interested in him ; 
and to know this is exactly as pleasant to a tramp as 
it is to any other human being. 

When our supper was ready, Mary handed me a 
little pail, and said : '' Gig, you 'd better run out 'n' 
hustle some beer. You kin find it 'bout half a mile 
up the road, ef you give the bloke a good story. But 
don't let the bulls catch ye. I don't wan' cher ter 
git sloughed up." 

I took the pail and went in search of the beer, 
which I found at the place she spoke of. On my re- 
turn she had the meat and bread placed on a shingle, 
and my companion and I, together with the hostess, 
sat down on a bench and had a most satisfying meal. 
During the repast Mary talked a good deal on numer- 
ous subjects, and commented on tramp life in various 
communities. She gave but little evidence of being 
crazy, but her mind would wander once in a while, 
and she would say in a dreamy sort of way, '^ Oh, Cig, 
this sort o' bummin' hain't like the old times. Them 
was the days fer beggars." 

Those 51d days, I suppose, were when she first came 



Old Boston Mary 329 

to this country ; and I have been told that a beggar's 
life in that period was, if not more profitable, at any 
rate more comfortable. I also heard her mumbling 
and calling herself '^ bughouse," and with the word 
her old head would fall humbly on her breast. But 
her kindness was so sound and steadfast that this 
occasional lapse into her inane mumbling did not 
much impress me. She kept asking if I were having 
enough to eat, and offered to cook more meat if I were 
not. When we had finished, she handed me a new 
clay pipe, gave me some tobacco which was of a better 
brand than that which my companion had begged, and 
then told me to smoke my " vittals stiddy." We sat 
there for nearly an hour, not saying much, and yet 
knowing fairly well what each one was thinking. 
There is something in tramp nature which makes 
these silent conversations easy and natural. 

At twelve o'clock we prepared for sleep. Mary 
was now at her best, and the way she assigned each 
man his place was worthy of a general. As we had 
to turn out about half -past four in the morning, so 
that all would be quiet before people were astir, I 
was glad enough to have a rest. The most of the 
men took off their coats and shoes, making of the 
former a blanket and of the latter a pillow, said, 
''Pound yer ear well," to their nearest neighbors, 
and then the candle was put out. Mary had a corner 
entirely to herself. 

I had been asleep for about three hours, I think, 
when I was awakened by a light shining in my face, 
and a hand passing over a tattoo mark on my right 
arm. I started up, and saw Mary kneeling beside me 

330 Tramping with Tramps 

and inspecting the ^^ piece" very closely. Noticing 
that I was awake, she whispered : '^ Come out o' the 
shanty with me fer a minnit. I wants ter ask ye 

I rose and followed her quietly out of the building 
to a small hollow not far away. 

'^Now, Cig," she said, "tell me the truth. Did 
Bud croak down in Texas, dead sartain?" 

I assured her that I had told her the truth. 

" Well," she replied, " then the whole game is up. 
Ye see, Bud was a Rom, too, 'n' we use' ter be great 
pals. Fer nigh outer a tenner we bummed this kentry 
together 'n' never had a fight. But one day Bud got 
jagged, 'n' swore I had n' be'n square to 'im. So we 
had a reg'lar out-'n'-outer, 'n' I hain't seen 'im sence. 
I 's sorry that 'e 's croaked, fer 'e was a good bloke ; 
yes, 'e was— yes, 'e was— " Here the poor creature 
seemed to forget herself, and I could hear her saying, 
'' Bughouse— bughouse." I recalled her to conscious- 
ness, and said that I must leave, as it was nearly time 
for her to close up shop. She wanted me to promise 
to meet her on the Common in the afternoon, where 
she did most of her begging, and handed me a quarter 
to " keep me a-goin' " till then. I returned it, and told 
her that I had to leave Boston that morning, but 
would gladly visit her again some day. And I cer- 
tainly intended to do so. But the natural course of 
events took me out of vagabondage soon, and it was 
not until quite recently that I heard any more of Bug- 
house Mary. 

A short time ago, while seeking some special and 
late information regarding tramp life in the large 

Old Boston Mary 331 

cities, I chanced upon an old friend of Mary's, whom 
I plied with questions concerning her whereabouts 
and fate. It was a long time before he would give 
me anything I could call a straight story, but at last, 
finding I had been, years before, one of the brother- 
hood, with hesitation and real sorrow he told me what 
follows : 

" I wuz drillin' one day, 'bout two months 'go, on the 
Boston 'n' Albany road, 'n' hed jes got into a jerk town 
[a village], where I battered [begged] fer some dinner. 
It begun to rain arter I 'd chewed, so I mooched down 
to the track 'n' found a box-car where I stopped fer 
a while. I wuz waitin' fer the 'xpress, too, so the 
wettin' wa'n't much uv a bother. Waal, I 'd be'n in 
the car a few minnits, when I got all-fired sleepy, 'n' 
ter save me gizzard I c'u'd n't keep me eyes open. So 
I jes lay down 'n' pounded me ear [slept]. I 'd be'n 
a-poundin' it, I guess, fer 'bout two hours — fer 't wuz 
'bout five 'clock when I begun, 'n' 't wuz dead dark 
when I got me peepers open — when I heerd somebody 
pushin' away at the car door to beat the divil, 'n' o' 
course looked out ; an' there on the groun' wuz one o' 
the funniest bums y' ever see— long, flyin' hair, big 
gray eyes, coat 'n' vest, 'n', ez sure 's I 'm a moocher, 
a skirt too, but no hat. Course I was int'rested, 'n' I 
jumps down 'n' gives the critter a big stare plump in 
the face, fer I had the feelin' I 'd seen it afore some- 
wheres. See 1 An' it sort o' answered, fer it seed I 
wuz koorios. ' I say, blokey, kin yer tell me when the 
flyin' mail passes through these yere parts ? I wants 
ter make it, ef it do.' Then I knew who 't wuz, fer 
ye kin tell Old Mary ev'ry time when she begins to 


Tramping with Tramps 

chew the rag. I tole her that the mail come through 
^bout twelve 'clock, 'n' then asked her where her hat 

^' ^ Waal, blokey,' she said, ' I hain't a-wearin' them 
air t'ings any more. I say, air yer right k'rect that 
the flyin' mail comes through these yere parts?' I 
guv it to her dead straight, 'n' tole 'er I wuz sartain. 
Then I asked, 'Mary, ain' cher recognizin' common 
peoples any more ? Don't chu know old Tom ? ' Ye 
sh'u'd 'a' seen 'er look ! She put 'er old bony ban's 
on me shoulders, 'n' stuck 'er old x)hiz clos't ter mine, 'n' 
said, ' Who be ye, anyhow ? I 's gettin' sort o' old-like 
'n' bughouse, 'n' I can't call yer name. Who be ye ? 
'n' kin ye tell me ef I kin make the flyin' mail ? ' I 
tole 'er who I wuz, 'n' ye sh'u'd 'a' seen 'er ! Ye see, 
I 's summat younger than 'er, 'n' she jes treated me 
like me old woman. It made me feel sort o' queer-like, 
I tell ye, for I use' ter like the old gal in great style. 

" Waal, we had a good talk, as ye kin well 'xpect, 
but she kept askin' 'bout that blasted flyin' mail. I 
did n' wan' ter ride it that night, 'cause she wuz purty 
bughouse, 'n' I felt she 'd get ditched ef we tried it. 
So I jes argeyed with 'er, 'n' did me best ter make 'er 
stay where we wuz ; but I might jes 's well 'a' tried to 
batter a dollar in the place. She was simply stuck on 
pullin' out that night. I asked 'er why she did n't go 
back to Boston, 'n' she said, ' Boston ! W'y, I 's got 
the mooch out o' Boston. Ye see, Tom, I got ter tellin' 
fortunes, 'n' the bulls snared me, 'n' his Honor tole 
me to crawl. I did n' go at first, but arter a bit it 
got too hot fer me out at the shanty, 'n' I had ter 
mooch. So here I be, 'n' I guess I 'm a' right ; but 

Old Boston Mary 333 

I 's bughouse— yes, bughouse'; 'n' she kept a- 
squealin' that word till I wuz sick. But she wuz 
bughouse, dead sure. An' I guess that 's why she 
wuz on the road, fer when I use' ter know 'er she 
wuz too cute ter let any bull get roun' her ; anyhow, 
no Boston bull c'u'd 'a' done it. P'r'aps a Chicago 
one might, but he 's all eyes anyhow. 

''Waal, ez I wuz sayin', I tried ter keep 'er from 
ridin' the mail, but 't wa'n't no use. So I made up 
me mind that I 'd go with 'er 'n' help 'er along. An' 
when the train whistled roun' the curve, I got 'er over 
to the tank, 'n' made 'er lay low till the train wuz 
ready. Waal, the train had come, 'n' I looked it over 
to find a blind baggage, but I c'u'd n't. So I sajs to 
Mary, 'We 've got to truck it.' She got horstile 's 
the divil when I tole 'er that. ' Truck it ! ' she said. 
' Course we '11 truck it. What else d' ye 'xpect us to 
do ? I use' ter ride out West as well as any o' ye, but 
I 's gittin' old 'n' sort o' bughouse— yes, I is.' The 
train wuz mos' ready to pull out, 'n' the con wuz 
swingin' his lantern, so I took 'er hand 'n' got 'er 
into the baggage-car trucks. ' Get in carefully,' I 
said, "n' be sartain ter hang on to the right rod.' 
She dumb in 'tween the wheels, 'n' fixed 'erself with 
'er back to the engine. It would 'a' made ye cry to 
hear 'er beggin' me to look out fer 'er. ' Don't leave 
the old gal, will yer, blokey ? ' I tole 'er I w'u'd n't, 'n' 
got in alongside her jes ez the whistle blew ; 'n' away 
we went, ridin', fer all either on us c'u'd tell, to the 
divil. 'T wa'n't no time to think 'bout that, though, 
fer I had to remember the old gal. I did n't dast ter 
hold 'er, fer I 'd 'a' fallen meself , so I jes had to holler 

334 Tramping with Tramps 

at ^er, 'n' be sure that she hollered back. I kept a- 
bellerin', ' Hang on, Mary, hang on ! ' 'n' she kept 
sayin', ^ I will, blokey, I will ! ' She meant, o' course, 
that she 'd do her best, but arter a few minnits I see 
clear 'nough she 'd never pull through. The way the 
wind 'n' the gravel 'n' the dirt flew round our faces, 
'n' the cramps that took us, settin' so crooked-like, 
wuz 'nough to make bigger blokes 'n she give up, 'n' 
don' cher forget it. An' to make things worse, her 
hair blew all over me face, 'n' matted down me eyes 
so I c'u'd hardly see. I das' n't brush it away, f er I 'd 
tumbled sure. The gravel cut me face, too, 'n' onc't a 
good-sized stone hit me lips such a rap that I c'u'd 
feel the blood tricklin' on me chin. But worse than 
all. Old Mary got to screamin', 'n' I c'u'd n't see her 
fer her hair. She screamed 'n' screamed, ' The flyin' 
mail— oh, I say— the flyin' mail,' an' 'er shriekin' 'n' the 
rattlin' o' the wheels made me nigh bughouse, too. I 
called out ev'ry few minnits to keep 'er down to biz- 
ness, 'n' I got one more answer sayin' she was doin' 'er 
best. An' then some o' her hair flew in me mouth, 'n' 
try me best I c'u'd n't get it out, 'n' I did n't dast ter 
take me hands off the rod. So I c'u'd n't see 'er or 
speak to 'er any more. See? I heard 'er screamin' 
agen, 'Oh, I say— the flyin' mail— flyin'— bughouse,' 
an' then nothin' more. I c'u'd n't say nothin', so I 
jes made a big noise in me throat to let 'er know I 
wuz there. By 'n' by I heerd it agen,— 'Bughouse 
—flyin' mail— blokey,'— an' agen I lost 'er. I wuz 
nearly bughouse meself . Ef that train hed only hauled 
up ! Ef I hed only kept 'er from ever gettin' on to it ! 
I c'u'd n' hold 'er, I c'u'd n' speak to 'er, I c'u'd n' 
see 'er, an' all the divils wuz dead agen' us. An' she 

Old Boston Mary 335 

wuz gettin' wilder ev'ry minnit. I shook me head up 
'n' down, back'urd V for'ard— 't wuz all I c'u'd do. 
Once agen she begun her screamin', ' Oh, I say, the flyin' 
mail— fly in'— fly in V an' then I said the biggest thankee 
I ever said in me life f er bein' blinded in me eyes ; fer 
when her old hair hed swished away, 'n' me eyes wuz 
free agen, I wuz hangin' on alone, 'n' the wheels hed 
carried me far away from where the old gal avuz lyin', 
I c'u'd n't help it. Gig- no, I c'u'd n't; 'n' you mus' 
tell the other blokes that I done my best, but 't wa'n't 
no use— I done my best." 

The tremor of the tone, the terror lest I should 
think he had not been faithful to his awful trust, told 
better than words that his tale was true, and that he 
had done his best to save the poor wrecked life so 
confidingly placed in his care. 

But the end was not unfitting. The "fly in' mail," 
the cramped and painful ride, the pelting storm of 
dust and gravel, the homeless goal— what could be 
more symbolic of Old Mary's career? And on the 
wings of steam and wind her Gipsy spirit went flying 




IT was my last night in San Francisco, and I could 
not leave without saying good-by to Old Slim. 
His place was almost empty when I strolled in, and he 
was standing behind his greasy bar counting the day's 
winnings. The adios was soon said, and I started for 
the street again. I had hardly left the bar when the 
door suddenly squeaked on its rickety hinges, and a 
one-armed man came in with a handsome kid. He 
was evidently dying of consumption, and as he shuffled 
clumsily across the floor, with the boy following 
solemnly at his heels, I fancied that he wanted Slim 
to help him into a hospital. He called for his drinks, 
and asked Slim if he knew of any one " bound East " 
the next day. 

^' W'y, yes," Slim replied ; " that young feller right 
back o' ye leaves ter-morrer: ain't that right, Ciga- 

The man turned and looked at me. Grabbing my 
hand, he exclaimed : 

^^Well, I '11 be jiggered! Where d' y'u come 
from? Don't remember me, eh? W'y, you little 
beggar, have you forgotten the time we nearly 


Jamie the Kid 337 

croaked in that box-car jus' out of Austin— have 
you forgotten that?" and he pinched my fingers as 
if to punish me. 

I scrutinized him closely, trying to trace in his 
withered and sickened face the familiar countenance 
of my old friend Denver Red. 

'' Yes, that 's right, guy me ! " he retorted ner- 
vously. '^ I 've changed a little, I know. But look at 
this arm,"— pushing back his sleeve from the emaciated 
hand,— '^ that crucifix ain't changed, is it ? Now d' you 
know me 1 " 

There was no longer any reason for doubt, for down 
in Texas I had seen New Orleans Fatty put that same 
piece on his lonely arm. But how changed he was ! 
The last time we met he was one of the healthiest 
hoboes on the '^ Santa Fe," and now he could just 
barely move about. 

"Why, Red," I asked, "how did this happen? 
You 're nearly dead." 

"Sleepin' out done it, I guess," he answered hoarsely. 
" Anyhow, the crocus ^ says so, 'n' I s'pose he knows. 
Can't get well, neither. Be'n all over— Hot Springs, 
Yellarstone, Yosem'ty, 'n' jus' the other day come up 
from Mex'co. Cough like a horse jus' the same. But 
say, Cig, drink out, 'n' we '11 go up to Jake's— 's too 
public here. I 've got a lot to tell you, 'n' a big job fer 
you, too ; '11 you come ? A' right. So long, Slim ; I '11 
be in agen ter-morrer." 

We were soon seated in a back room at Jake's. 
The boy stretched himself on a bench, and in a mo- 
ment was asleep. 

1 Doctor. 


Tramping with Tramps 

" Purty kid, ain't he ? " Red said, looking proudly at 
the little fellow. 

" An' he 's a perfect bank, too, 'f yon train 'im right. 
You oughter seen 'im over in Sac ^ the other day. He 
drove some o' them Eastern stiffs nearly wild with the 
way he throws his feet. Give 'im good weather an' a 
lot o' women, 'n' he '11 batter his tenner ev'ry day. 
They get sort o' stuck on 'im somehow, 'n' 'fore they 
know it they 're shellin' out. Quarters ev'ry time, 
too. He don't take no nickels— seems to hate 'em. A 
Los Angeles woman tried 'im once, 'n' what d' you 
think he did ? Told 'er to put it in an orphan 'sylum. 
Oh, he 's cute, bet cher life. But, Cig,"— and his voice 
dropped to a lower pitch,— " he 's homesick. Think of 
it, will you, a hobo kid homesick ! Bawls like the devil 
sometimes. Wants to see his ma— he 's only twelve 
'n' a half, see ? If 'e was a homely kid, I 'd kick 'im. 
If there 's en'thing I can't stand, it 's homely bawlin' 
kids. They make me sick. But you can't kick Mm — 
he 's too purty J ain't he?" and he glanced at the 

"You pull out at seven, do you?" he asked, after 
a pause. 

" Well, Cig, I 'm mighty glad it 's you I found at 
Slim's. I was hopin' I 'd meet some bloke I knew, but 
I feared I would n't. They 're mos' all dead, I guess. 
Bummin' does seem to kill us lads, don't it? Ev'ry 
day I hear o' some stiff croakin' or gettin' ditched. 
It 's a holy fright. Yer bound f er York, ain't you, Cig ? 
Well, now, see here 5 I 've got an errand f er you. What 
d' you think 't is ? Give it up, I s'pose ? Well, you see 

1 Sacramento. 

Jamie the Kid 339 

that kid over there ; purty, ain't he ? " and he walked 
over to the bench and looked into the lad's face. 

''Pounds his ear [sleeps] like a baby, don't he?" 
and he passed his hand delicately over the boy's 

" Now, Cig," he continued, returning to his seat, " I 
want — you — to — take — this — kid — back — to — the — 
Horn. That 's where he lives. What d' you say ? " 

There was only one thing I could say. A few 
months more at the outside and Red would be gone, 
and it was probably the last favor I could do him in 
payment for the many kindnesses he had shown mo in 
the early days. 

"If en'thing happens to 'im, Cig, w'y, it 's got to 
happen, I s'pose ; but he 's so dead stuck on seein' his 
ma that I guess he '11 be purty foxy. I 'd take 'im 
myself, but I 'm 'fraid I can't pull through. It 's a 
tough trip 'tween here 'n' Omaha, 'n' I guess he '11 be 
safer with you. I hate to let 'im go at all, but the 
devil of it is I ain't got the nerve to hang on to 'im. 
You see, I 'm goin' to croak 'fore long— oh, you don't 
need to snicker ; 't 's a fact. A few more months 'n' 
there '11 be one less hobo lookin' fer set-downs. Yes, 
Cig, that 's straight. But that ain't the only reason 
I 'm sendin' the kid home. I oughter sent 'im home 
'bout a year ago, 'n' I said I would, too, 'f I found 'im. 
I lied, did n't I ? Ye-es, sir ; 'bout twelve months ago 
I told his mother I 'd fetch 'im back 'f I collared 'im. 
How 's that fer a ghost-story, eh? Would n't the 
blokes laugh, though, if they 'd hear it ? Denver Red 
takin' a kid home ! Sounds funny, don't it ? But 
that 's jus' what I said I 'd do, 'n' I was n't drunk, 

340 Tramping with Tramps 

nuther. Fill up yer schooner, Cig, 'n' I '11 tell you 
'bout it." 

He braced himself against the wall, hugged his 
knees, and told me what follows. 

*' You know where the Horn is right 'pough, don't 
you ? Well, 'bout a year 'n' a half ago I got ditched 
there one night in a little town not far from the main 
line. 'T was rainin' like the devil, 'n' I could n't find 
an empty anywheres. Then I tried the barns, but 
ev'ry one of 'em was locked tighter 'n a penitentiary. 
That made me horstile, 'n' I went into the main street 
'n' tackled a bloke fer a quarter. He would n't give 
me none, but 'e told me 'f I wanted a lodgin' that a 
woman called College Jane 'u'd take me in. Says he : 
' Go up this street till you strike the academy ; then 
cross the field, 'n' purty soon you '11 find a little row o' 
brown houses, 'n' in No. 3 is where Jane lives. You 
can't miss the house, 'cause there 's a queer sign 
hangin' over the front door, with a ball o' yarn 'n' a 
big needle painted on it. She does mendin'. I guess 
she '11 take you in. She always does, anyhow.' Coiu-se 
I did n't know whether he was lyin' or not,— you can 
never trust them hoosiers,— but I went up jus' the 
same, 'n' purty soon, sure 'nough, I struck the house. 
I knocked, 'n' in a minnit I heerd some one sayin', ' Is 
that you, Jamie ? ' Course that was n't my name, but 
I thought like lightnin', 'n' made up my mind that 
't was my name in the ram, anyhow. So I says, in a 
kid's voice, 'Yes, it 's Jamie.' The door opened, 'n' 
there was one o' the peartest little women y' ever see. 

" ' Oh, I thought you was n't Jamie,' she says. ' Come 
in— come in. You must be wet.' 

Jamie the Kid 341 

" I felt sort o' sheepish, but went in, 'n' she set me 
down in the dinin'-room. Then I told 'er a story. 
One o' the best I ever told, I guess— made 'er eyes 
run, anyhow. An' she fed me with more pie 'n' cake 
than I ever had in my life. Reminded me o' the time 
we thought we was drunk on apple-pie in New Eng- 
land. Well, then she told me her story. 'T wa'n't 
much, but somehow I ain't forgotten it yet. You see, 
she come from the soil, 'n' her man was a carpenter. 
After they 'd be'n West 'bout six years he up 'n' died; 
leavin^ her a little house 'n' a kid. She called 'im 
Jamie. Course she had to live somehow, 'n' purty 
soon she got a job mendin' fer the 'cademy lads, 'n' 
she boarded some of 'em. That 's the way she got her 
monikey ^— see ? Well, things went along purty well, 
'n' she was 'spectin' to put the kid in the 'cademy 'fore 
long. H-e-e-e did n't like books very well— hung 
around the station mos' the time. Sort 0' stuck on 
the trains, I s'pose. Lots o' kids like that, you know. 
Well, to wind up the business, one night when he was 
'bout 'leven year old he sloped. Some bloke snared 'im, 
prob'ly, an' ever since she 's be'n waitin' 'n' waitin' fer 
'im to come back. An' ev'ry night she fixes up his bed, 
'n' 'f anybody knocks she always asks, 'Is that you, 
Jamie ? ' Funny, ain't it 1 Well, somehow the bums 
got on to 'er, 'n' ever since the kid mooched she 's be'n 
entertainin' 'em. Gives them his room ev'ry time. 
An' she always asks 'em 'f they know where he is. 
She asked me too, 'n' made me promise 'f I found 'im 
that I 'd send 'im home. Course I never 'spected to 
see 'im, but I had to say somethin'. 

1 Nickname. 

342 Tramping with Tramps 

''Well, sir, six months afterward I was sittin' in 
Sal's place in K. C./ when who should come in but 
New York Slim. He called me out, 'n' says, 'Red, 
wanter buy a kid V As it happened, I did want one, 
so I asked 'im how much 'e wanted. He took me over 
to a joint 'n' showed me that kid over there on that 
bench. 'Give you a sinker [a dollar],' I said. He 
was satisfied, 'n' I took the kid. 

" Well, sir, as luck would have it, 'bout a week later 
the kid got so stuck on me that he told me his story. 
I did n't know what to do. He did n't wanter go home, 
'n' I did n't want 'im to. Course I did n't tell 'im 
nothin' 'bout seein' his ma— that 'u'd 'a' spoiled ev'ry- 
thing. Well, I did n't say nothin' more 'bout it, 'n' 
we come out here. I 've had 'im now fer.'bout a year, 
'n' I 've trained 'im dead fine. W'y, Cig, he 's the best 
kid on the coast— yes, he is. But, as I 've be'n tellin' 
you, he 's homesick, 'n' I 've got to get 'im back to the 
Horn. I 'm 'fraid he won't stay there— he 's seen too 
much o' the road ; but I '11 croak jus' a little bit easier 
from knowin' that I sent 'im back. I 'd like it 'f he 'd 
stay, too ; 'cause, to 'f ess up, Cig, I ain't very proud o' 
this bummin', 'n' 'f 'e keeps at it 'e '11 be jus' like me 
'fore long. So when 'e wakes up I 'm goin' to lecture 
'im, 'n' I don't want you to laugh. May help, you 
know; can't tell." 

Two hours later we were in the railroad yards wait- 
ing for my train to be made up. There were still about 
fifteen minutes left, and Red was lecturing the kid. 

" See here, kid," I heard him saying ; " what 's you 
learnt since I 've had you— en'thing?" 

1 Kansas City. 

Jamie the Kid 345 

" Bet cher life I has ! " the little fellow returned, with 
an assumed dignity that made even Red smile. 

'' Well, how much ? Rattle it off now, quick ! '^ 

The boy began to count on his fingers : 

^^ Batterin', one ; sloppin' up, two j three-card trick, 
three; an'— an'— that song 'n' dance, four— four; an' 
— an' enhalin' cig'rettes, five — five — " Here he 
stopped and asked if he should take the next hand. 

^' Yes, go on ; let 's have the hull of it." 

'^ Well, then, I knows that cuss-word you taught me 
—that long one, you know ; that 's six, ain't it? Oh, 
yes, 'n' I knows that other cuss-word that that parson 
told us was never forgiven— remember, don't you? 
Well, that 's seven— seven. I guess that 's about all 
— jus' an even seven." 

"You sure that 's all, kid?" 

" Well, darn it. Red, ain't that enough fer a prushun 1 
You don't know much more yerself — no, you don't, 'n* 
you 's three times old 's I am " ; and he began to pout. 

"Now, kid, d' you know what I wants you to do?" 

" Bet cher life I do ! Ain' cher be'n tellin' me fer 
the las' year? You wants me to be a blowed-in-the- 
glass stiff. Ain't them the words ? " 

" No, kid. I 've changed my mind. Yer goin' home 
now, ain' cher ? " 

"Jus' fer a little while. I 'm comin' back to you, 
ain't I?" 

"No, you ain't, kid. Yer goin' home fer good. 
Cigarette 's goin' to take you, 'n' you must n't come 
back. Listenin' ? " 

" Say, Red, has you gone bughouse ? I never heerd 
you talk like that in my hfe." 

34^ Tramping with Tramps 

'' See here, kid,"— and there was a firmer tone in his 
voice,— ^Sve ain't fooliu' now— understan' ? An' in 
about five minnits you '11 be gone. Now, I wants you 
to promise that ye '11 ferget ev'ry darn thing I 've 
taught you. Listenin' 1 " 

The kid was gazing down the track. 

^'Listenin'?" Red cried again. 

The kid turned and looked at him. ''Can't I en- 
hale cig'rettes any more ? Has I got to ferget them, 

" Well, kid, you Mn tell yer mother that I says you 
kin do that— but that 's all. Now, 11 you promise?" 

" Gosh, Red, it '11 be hard work ! " 

" Can't help it— you got to do it. You don't wanter 
be like me. You wanter be somethin' dead fine— 

"Ain't you somethin' dead fine? I heerd 'Frisco 
Shorty say onc't you was the fliest bloke in yer line 
west o' Denver.'^ 

"You don't understan', kid"; and he stamped his 
foot. "I mean like yer mother. Listenin'? Well, 
'11 you promise ? " 

The kid nodded his head, but there was a surprise 
in his eyes which he could not conceal. 

The train was at last ready, and we had to be quick. 

" Well, Cig, so long ; take care o' yerself . Be good 
to the kid.'^ 

Then he turned to the boy. It was the tenderest 
good-by I have ever seen between a prushun and his 
jocker. A kiss, a gentle stroke on his shoulder, and 
he helped him climb into the box-car. 

The last we saw of Red, as we stood at the door 

Jamie the Kid 347 

while the engine puffed slowly out of the yards, he 
was standing on a pile of ties waving his hat. Six 
months afterward I was told in the Bowery that he 
was dead. 

The journey to the Horn was full of incident. For 
six long days and nights we railroaded and railroaded, 
sometimes on the trucks and the blind baggage, and 
again lying flat on top, dodging the cinders as they 
whizzed about our heads, and the brakeman as he 
came skipping over the cars to tax us for the ride. It 
was hard work, and dangerous, too, at times, but the 
kid never whimpered. Once he wanted to, I thought, 
when a conductor kicked him off the caboose ; but he 
faked a professional little laugh in place of it. And 
he also looked rather frightened one night when he 
nearly lost his grip climbing up the ladder of a cattle- 
car, but he was afterward so ashamed that it was 
almost 'pitiful. He was the " nerviest " child I ever 
traveled with. Even on the trucks, where old natives 
sometimes feel squeamish, he disguised his fear. But 
he was at his best at meal-time. Regularly he would 
plant himself before me in waiter fashion, and say : 

" Well, Cig'rette, what 's it to be ? Beefsteak 'n' 
'taters 'n^ a little pie— 11 that do ? " 

Or if he thought I was not having enough variety 
he would suggest a more delicate dish. 

"How '11 a piece o' chicken taste, eh?" And the 
least eagerness on my part sent him off to find it. 

It was not, however, an entirely one-sided affair, 
for I was in his service also. I had to protect him 
from all the hoboes we met, and sometimes it was not 
so easy as one might think. He was so handsome 

348 Tramping with Tramps 

and clever that it was a temptation to any tramp to 
snare him if he could, and several wanted to buy him 

^' I '11 give you five balls fer 'im/' one old fellow told 
me, and others offered smaller sums. A Southern 
roadster tried to get him free of cost, and the tales he 
told him, and the way he told them, would have done 
honor to a professional story-teller. Luckily for me, 
the kid was considerably smarter than the average boy 
on the road, and he had also had much experience. 

'^ They 's got to tell better short stories than them 
'fore they get me ! " he exclaimed proudly, after several 
men had tried their influence on him. '' I 'm jus' as 
cute as they is, ain't I ? I know what they wants— 
they think I 'm a purty good moocher, 'n' they '11 
make sinkers out 0' me. Ain't that it 1 " 

None the less I almost lost him one night, but it 
was not his fault. We were nearing Salt Lake City at 
the time, and a big, burly negro was riding in our car. 
We were both sleepy, and although I realized that it 
was dangerous to close my eyes with the stranger so 
near, I could not help it, and before long the kid and I 
•were dozing. The next thing I knew the train was 
slowing up, and the kid was screaming wildly, and 
struggling in the arms of the negro as he jumped to the 
ground. I followed, and had hardly reached the track 
when I was greeted with these words : '' Shut up, or 
I '11 t'row de kid under de wheels." 

The man looked mean enough to do it ; but I saw 
that the kid had grabbed him savagely around the 
neck, and, feeling sure that he would not dare to risk 
his own life, I closed with him. It was a fierce tussle. 

Jamie the Kid 349 

and the trainmen, as they looked down from the cars 
and flashed their lanterns over the scene, cheered and 

^^ Sick 'em ! " I heard them crying. '^ Go it, kid- 
go it ! " 

Our train had almost passed us, and the conductor 
was standing on the caboose, taking a last look at the 
fight. Suddenly he bawled out : 

'' Look out, lads ! The express 's comin' ! " 

We were standing on the track, and the negro 
jumped to the ditch. I snatched the kid from the 
ground and ran for the caboose. As we tumbled on 
to the steps the " con " laughed. 

^' Did n't I do that well?" he said. 

I looked up the track, and, lo and behold ! there was 
no express to be seen. It was one of the kind deeds 
which railroad men are continually doing for knights 
of the road. 

As we approached the Horn the kid became rather 
serious. The first symptom I noticed was early one 
morning while he was practising his beloved " song 'n' 
dance." He had been shaking his feet for some time, 
and at last broke out lustily into a song I had often 
heard sung by jolly crowds at the hang-out: 

Oh, we are three bums, 
Three jolly old bums, 

We hve like royal Turks. 
We have good luck 
In bummin' our chuck. 

To hell with the man that works ! 

After each effort, if perchance there had been one 
'' big sound " at all like Red's, he chuckled to himself : 

350 Tramping with Tramps 

'^ Oh, I 'm a-gettin' it, bet cher life ! Gosh ! I wish 
Red was here ! " And then he would try again. This 
went on for about half an hour, and he at last struck 
a note that pleased him immensely. He was just going 
to repeat it, and had his little mouth perked accord- 
ingly, when something stopped him, and he stared at 
the floor as if he had lost a dime. He stood there 
silently, and I wondered what the matter could be. 
I was on the point of speaking to him, when he walked 
over to the door and looked out at the telegraph-poles. 
Pretty soon he returned to the corner where I was 
reading, and settled down seriously at my side. In 
a few moments he was again at the door. He had 
been standing in a musing way for some time, when 
I saw him reach into his inside coat pocket and bring 
out the tattered bits of pasteboard with which he did 
his three-card trick. Unfolding the packet, he threw 
the paper on the track, and then fingered over each 
card separately. Four times he pawed them over, 
going reluctantly from one to the other. Then, and 
before I could fancy what he was up to, he tossed them 
lightly into the air, and followed them with his eye as 
the wind sent them flying against the cars. When he 
turned around, his hands were shaking and his face 
was pale. I cruelly pretended not to notice, and asked 
him carelessly what was the matter. He took another 
look at the world outside, as if to see where the cards 
had gone, and then came over to the corner again. 
Putting his hands in his trousers pockets, and tak- 
ing a long draw at his cigarette, he said, the smoke 
pouring out of his nostrils, "I 'm tryin' to re- 

Jamie the Kid 351 

He looked so solemn that I did not dare to laugh, 
but it was all I could do to keep. from it. 

" D' you think I '11 make it go ? " he asked, after a 
pause, during which his feet had tried to tempt him 
from his good resolution, and had almost led him into 
the forbidden dance. Almost every hour from that 
time on he asked that same question, and sometimes 
the childish pathos that he threw into his voice and 
manner would have unmanned an old stager. 

The last day of our journey we had a long talk. 
He was still trying to reform, but he had come to 
certain conclusions, and one of them was that he could 
not go to school any more ; or, what was more to the 
point, that he did not see the need of it. 

'' Course I don't know ev'rything," he explained, 
'^but I knows a lot. W'y, I kin beat Red figgerin' 
a'ready, an' I kin read things he can't, too. Lots o' 
words he don't know 't I does ; an' when he 's drunk 
he can't read at all, but I kin. You oughter seen us 
in Cheyenne, Cig"; and the reminiscence made him 
chuckle. '^ We was both jagged, 'n' the copper served 
a paper on us, 'n' I had to read it to Red. Ain't that 
purty good ? Red said 't was, anyhow, 'n' he oughter 
know, ought n't he ? No, I don't think I need much 
schoolin'. I don't wanter be President of the country : 
'f I did, p'r'aps I oughter know some more words; 
but seein' 's I don't, I can't see the use o' diggin' in 
readers all the while. I wish Red had given me a 
letter 'bout that, 'cause ma 'n' I '11 get to fightin' 'bout 
it, dead sure. You see, she 's stuck on puttin' me tru 
the 'cademy, 'n' I 'm stuck on keepin' out of it, 'n' 'f 
we get to scrappin' agen I 'm afraid I won't reform. 

352 Tramping with Tramps 

She '11 kick 'hout my smokin', too ; but I 've got her 
there, ain't I? Red said I could smoke, did n't 'e— 
h'm 1 Tell you what I guess I '11 do, Cig. Jus' after 
I 've kissed 'er I '11 tell 'er right on the spot jus' what 
I kin do. Won't that be a good scheme 1 Then, you 
see, she can't jaw 'bout my not bein' square, can she ? 
Yes, sir ; that 's jus' what I '11 do " ; and he rubbed his 
tattooed hands as if he had made a good bargain. 

The next morning, just as the sun was rising over 
the prairie-line, our train switched off the main road, 
and we were at last rolling along over the Horn. The 
kid stood by the door and pointed out the landmarks 
that he remembered. Ere long he espied the open 
belfry of the academy. 

''See that cup'la, Cig?" he cried. ''Dad helped to 
build that, but 'e croaked doin' it. Some people says 
that 'e was jagged, 'cause 'e tumbled. Ma says the 
sun struck 'im." 

A few minutes later the train stopped at the water- 
ing-tank, and my errand was done. There was no 
need to jocker the boy any longer. His welfare de- 
pended upon his mother and his determination to 
reform. He kissed me good-by, and then marched 
manfully up the silent street toward the academy. I 
watched him till the train pulled out. Thus ended 
one of the hardest trips of my life in Hoboland. 

One warm summer evening, about three years after 
leaving the Horn, I was sitting in a music-hall in the 
Bowery. I had long since given up my membership 
in the hobo fraternity, but I liked to stroll about now 
and then and visit the old resorts ; and it was while 

Jamie the Kid 353 

on such an excursion that I drifted into the variety 
show. I watched tlie people as they came and went, 
hoping to recognize some old acquaintance. I had 
often had odd experiences and renewal of friendships 
under similar circumstances, and as I sat there I 
wondered who it would be that I should meet that 
night. The thought had hardly recorded itself when 
some one grabbed my shoulder in policeman style, and 
said, '' Shake ! " I looked around, and found one of 
the burliest rowdies in the room. He turned out to 
be a pal that I had known on the New York Central, 
and, as usual, I had to go over my remembrances. 
He also had yarns to spin, and he brought them so 
up to date that I learned he was just free of a Vir- 
ginia jail. Then began a tirade against Southern 
prisons. As he was finishing it he happened to re- 
member that he had met a friend of mine in the 
Virginian limbo. *^ Said 'e knew you well, Cig, but I 
could n't place 'im. Little feller ; somethin' of a kid, 
I guess ; up fer thirty days. One o' the blokes called 
'im the Horn kid, 'n' said 'e use' ter be a fly prushun 
out in the coast country. Old Denver Red trained 'im, 
he said. Who is he 1 D' you know 'im ? He was a nice 
little feller. W'y, what 's wrong, Cig"? You look 
spiked f upset]." 

I probably did. It was such a disappointment as I 
had hardly imagined. Poor kid ! He probably did 
so well that his mother tried to put him into the 
academy, and then he " sloped " once more. I told the 
tramp the tale I have just finished. He was too obtuse 
to see the pathetic side of it, but one of his comments 
is worth repeating : 

354 Tramping with Tramps 

" You can't do nothin' with them kids, Cig. After 
they 's turfed it a bit they 're gone. Better let 'em 

But I cannot believe that that kind-hearted little 
fellow is really gone. Whoever meets him now, police- 
man or philanthropist, pray send him back to the 
Horn again. 



IF there is any one thing that the hobo prizes more 
than another it is his privilege to ride on the rail- 
roads free of charge. He is as proud of it as the 
American is of his country, and brags about it from 
morning to night. Even the blanket-stiff in the far 
West, who almost never sees the inside of a railroad- 
car, will wax patriotic when on this subject. And 
well he may, for no other country in the world pro- 
vides such means of travel for its vagabonds. From 
Maine to '' 'Frisco " the railroads are at the tramp's dis- 
posal, if he knows how to use them, and seldom does 
he take to the turnpike from any necessity. 

There are, however, some difficulties and trials even 
in his railroad life. When he rides a ''passenger," 
for instance, either on top or between the wheels, he 
encounters numerous dangers and hardships, and it 
is months before he knows how to meet them hero- 
ically. Even on freight trains his task is not so easy 
as some people think. A man must train for such 
work, just as a pugilist trains for a fight, and it is 
only when he is a real artist that he can enjoy it. I 
The main difficulty in riding freight-trains is with the 


35^ Tramping with Tramps 

brakeman. No matter where the hobo goes, he runs 
the risk of meeting this ubiquitous official. If he is 
on the ''bumpers/' the brakeman is usually " guying" 
him from the top of a car ; and if he goes " inside," so 
too does the brakeman. Even at night the "brakey" 
and his free passenger are continually running up 
against each other. Sometimes they become fast 
friends. The tramp will help put on the brakes, and 
the brakeman will help conceal the tramp. But there 
are other times when things are different. The brake- 
man tries to '' ditch " the tramp, and the latter tries 
to ''beat" the brakeman. On such occasions some- 
thing happens. Usually the brakeman "gets left." 
The hobo is too clever, and beats him at his own game. 
But now and then even the hobo falls into a trap. Of 
course he gets out sooner or later, but while in it he 
is an interesting study. When free again, he usually 
tells his cronies all about it, and they pity or applaud 
him, as the case may be. But once in a long while 
the trap he falls into turns out such a joke that he 
says nothing about it, out of respect for the profes- 
sion. He hates to be laughed at just as much as other 
people, and no matter how good the joke is, he keeps 
it to himself if it will tell against him. 

I happen to know of just such a joke. It has been 
kept quiet now for a number of years, but I think that 
it can do no harm to teU it, since I was one of the 

One night I chanced to be in Galesburg, Illinois, 
situated on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Rail- 
road. I was with a hobo called " Elmira Fatty," and 
we were on our way to " Chi," or Chicago, as polite peo- 

One Night on the "O" ^ 359 

pie call it. We had just come in from the West, where 
we had spent some time with the blanket-stiffs, and 
as far as Galesburg we had had no misfortune or bad 
luck to report. In fact, from Salt Lake City on everj'- 
thing had gone just as we had planned, and we were 
hoping that night that nothing might interfere to 
prevent us from arriving in " Chi " the next morning. 
We expected to travel on a freight-train that was 
due in Galesburg about nine o'clock. It was a mean 
night for traveling, for the rain came down in torrents 
and the wind blew most exasperatingly. Neverthe- 
less, we wanted to push on if practicable, and about 
half -past eight went over to the railroad yards to wait 
for the freight. It came in on time, and Fatty and I 
immediately took different sections of it in search of 
an " empty." He looked over the forward part, and I 
inspected the cars near the caboose. We met again in 
a few minutes, and reported that '' there was n't an 
empty in the whole line." 

'^ W'y," said Fatty, '4t 's nothin' but a ole steer- 
train ! Ev'ry blasted car is fuU of 'em." 

I suggested that we wait for another, but he would 
not listen to me. 

"No, sir. If we break our necks, we '11 ride that train." 

" But where are you going to ride ? " I queried. 

" On top, o' course." 

T knew that it was useless to argue with him, and 
followed him up the ladder. We sat down on the top 
of a car, with the rain simply pouring down upon us. 
Pretty soon the whistle tooted and the train started. 
As we pulled out of the yards the brakeman came over 
the train, and espied me instantly. 

360 ' Tramping with Tramps 

'^ Hello, Shorty ! " he said, in a jovial way. " Where 
you goin' ? " 

" Oh, just up the road a bit. No objections, have 

^^No, I guess I ain't got no objections. But say, 
you lads are big fools." 

'^ Here, here ! " said Fatty, angrily. '^ Who you 
callin' fools?" 

'' I 'm callin' you fools, ^n' y' are, too." 

" See here," continued Fatty j ^'if you call me a fool 
agen I '11 put yer face in— I will, by gosh ! " and he 
stood up to make good his threat. 

^' Don't get 'uffy; don't get 'uffy," said the brakey, 
soothingly. "Lemme tell you somethin'. See them 
hay-boxes over there on the corner o' the car ? " 

'^ Hay-boxes ! " exclaimed Fatty, and he looked at 
me in surprise. 

" Come over 'n' look at 'em." 

We followed him to the end of the car, and there, 
true enough, after he had lifted the lid, was a most 
comfortable hay-box, nearly full of nice soft hay. 

Fatty was almost wild with delight, and patting me 
on the back, said : 

^'W'y, Cig, this is a perfect palace-car, ain't it? 
Gosh ! " 

The brakeman held his lantern while I got into the 
box. The opening was not very large, hardly more 
than a foot wide— plenty large enough for me, it is 
true, but I was much smaller than Fatty. When he 
tried to get in there was some trouble. His head and 
shoulders went through all right, but then he stopped, 
for his paunch was the broadest part of him, and he 

One Night on the " Q " 361 

complained that "it pinched ter'bly." Exactly what 
to do was a poser, but finally he nerved himself for 
another squeeze. He twisted, slipped, and grunted, 
and at last had to beg me to hold his head and steer 
him, so helpless had his exertions made him. I guided 
him as best I could, and pretty soon he came ''ka- 
plunk," as he called it, on the hay. The brakey 
closed the lid and left. 

Fatty had hardly settled himself before he began 
to wonder how he would get out in the morning. 

" By gosh ! " he said, " pVaps I '11 jus' have to stay 
here, 'n' they '11 carry me right over to the stock-yards. 
Would n't I be a great steer, eh ? " 

But I was too tired to speculate, and in a few min- 
utes was asleep. What Fatty did for the next fifty 
miles I can't say, but in about two hours he cruelly 
awakened me and asked for a match. 

" Why, you 're not going to smoke here ? " I said. 

" Cert," he crisply replied. " Why not ? " 

*' You '11 set the place afire, with all this loose hay 

" Set yer gran'mother afire ! Gimme a lucifer." 

I told him I had none, and then he wanted me 
to get out and ask the brakey for one. I did not 
want to do it, but I felt sure that he would trouble 
me all night unless I did, so I consented to go. But, 
lo and behold ! when I tried to lift the lid it would not 

"Fatty," I said, "we 're ditched." 

" Ditched yer gran'mother ! What 's the matter ? " 

" This lid won't move." 

" Lemme get at it." 

362 Tramping with Tramps 

Fatty weighed two hundred and fifty pounds,— 
"punds," he called them,— and he put every one 
against that lid. It squeaked a little, but still would 
not lift. 

" Fatty," I repeated, " we 're ditched." 

But he was determined not to give in, and lay on his 
back to kick the lid. He reasoned that that ought to 
mean fifty pounds more, and if three hundred " punds ' 
could n't budge the thing, then something was going 
to happen. He kicked and kicked. The lid squeaked 
a good deal, but was as stubborn as ever. Then you 
should have heard Fatty scold. He scolded every- 
body, from the president of the road down to the 
humblest switchman, and then, as if he had not done 
enough, said : 

" By gosh, Cig, we '11 prosecute 'em ! This is simply 
scandalous! Tramps can't ride this way, and they 
ought to know it. Yes, sir, we '11 prosecute 'em." 

Then he began to swear, and never in my life have 
I heard such maledictions hurled at poor erring rail- 
road officials. Soon even cursing tired him, and he 
tumbled back on the hay exhausted. After he had 
rested a bit, a new phase of the situation presented 
itself to him, and he felt around in the box to see how 
much hay there was between us and the steers. 

"There ain't much, Cig," he whined; " little; 

an here we are locked in ! By the hoky-poky, I 'd 
like to git hold o' that brakey's throat ! I 'd squeeze 
it, take my tip for that. An', by gosh, if them steers 
kill us, he '11 croak for it, an' don' cher forget it ! " 

" Steers ! " I exclaimed. " What do you mean. 

One Night on the " Q " 363 

" Wy, don' cher know them steers is right under us ? " 

"Well, what of that?" 

'^Wy, they Ve got horns— big ones, too." 

"Well, what of that, Fatty?" 

" W'y, you fool, we ain't got any." 

"But, Fatty, what does that matter?" 

" Matter ! Matter ! Ain' cher got no sense ? Don' 
cher know nothin'? Ain' cher never heard o' steers 
hookin' a bloke before ? You must be a tenderfoot." 

Then I grasped the situation. We were at the 
mercy of those Texas steers ! Soon I heard Fatty 
saying, in a most pitiful voice : 

" Cig, I guess we 'd better say our little prayers 
right now, 'cause if we get to sleep we '11 forget all 
about it. So you begin, 'n' while yer chewin' the rag 
I '11 watch the hay." 

He wanted me to pray, and actually thought that 
that was the only thing that would save us. He 
always was a religious fellow in great emergencies, 
and his scheme did not much surprise me ; but as I 
knew of no prayer fitted for such an occasion, I told 
him so, and added that even if I did know one I should 
prefer to leave it unsaid, considering the circum- 

" We had no business letting the brakey lock us in 
here, and you know it, too. So we '11 have to get out 
the best way we can." 

This bravery was a little faked, but I thought it 
best to keep as cool as possible, for Fatty was con- 
tinually fuming and scolding. And every few minutes 
he would feel around in the hay, and then say, most 
forlornly : 

364 Tramping with Tramps 

" Cig, them pokers is gettin' nearer. Prepare to die." 

Once I thought he was joking, and told him to stop 
if he thought he was scaring me. 

"I ain't tryin' to scare you," he whined 5 "I 'm 
simply tellin' you the truth." 

This was certainly alarming, and I almost confessed 
my fear. But I managed to control myself, and per- 
severed in my artificial boldness. 

^' Well, Fatty, let 's die game, anyhow. If the horns 
come up here we can kick at them, and perhaps the 
steers will be frightened. Can't tell, you know." 

'^ No, that won't work," he replied hopelessly, and 
he measured the hay once more. This time his hand 
struck the thin and widely separated slats, the only 
barriers between us and the steers. We both knew 
that if the horns ever came through them, we would 
be done for. 

u ^e yj.Q gone, Cig," Fatty continued ; '^ no doubt of 
it. But, jus' the samey, I 'm goin' to pound my ear, 
anyhow. I 'd rather die asleep than awake. So, so 
long, Cig ; if you croak first, I '11 pray for you." 

Then, much to my surprise and indignation, he 
curled into a big baU and "pounded his ear." I 
remained awake for a while longer, listening to the 
steers chewing away at the hay. But, in spite of the 
n earing danger, I became sleepy, too, and was soon 
lying beside Fatty. In the morning, about half -past 
five, we awoke simultaneously. I felt around in the 
box, and the hay seemed almost gone. 

" I wish that I 'd died in the night," said Fatty, 
angrily. " Now I 've got to go when I 'm awake." 

The train began to slow up— perhaps we were to be 

One Night on tfie "Q" 365 

saved, after all. It came to a full stop, and we could 
hear footsteps. Some one was walking along the 
path near the track. 

^' Shall I holler?" asked Fatty. 

^^ Perhaps it 's a policeman," I returned, '^ and that 
means thirty days in the Bridewell. Would n't you 
rather die ? " 

^' But p'r'aps 't ain't ! " And he called through one 
of the cracks, " Hobo ! Hobo ! " 

Luckily it was a hobo. 

''Come up here," cried Fatty, "'n' unjail us, for 
heavin's sake. We 're locked in the hay-boxes j climb 
on top 'n' loose the cover." 

We heard him quickly obeying the call. He 
climbed up the ladder, loosened the latch, and seemed 
to wonder at our eagerness to leave such a nest of 
comfort. Fatty was helped out immediately, although 
we were still six miles from "Chi"; but I made him 
wait while I looked to see just what danger we had 
escaped. There is so much compensating consolation 
in a view of perils safely passed. There was still a 
fair amount of hay in the box. I rooted down to the 
slats for a last look at our tormentors, and there, right 
before me, stood those awful beasts, wild and fresh 
from the fields of the Lone Star State. There were 
nearly twenty of them, I should say, but not a single 
one had a horn ! 

Fatty sneaked off to the watering-tank, and I waved 
adieu to him from the top of the car. His face wore 
the grimmest of grins, and his last words were, " If 
you ever tell this joke at the hang-out, Cig— " And 
I never have. 


THE freight had just pulled out of Queretaro, 
and Barcas and I were lying on the floor of the 
car near one of the side doors, commenting on the 
landscape. We were on our way to the city of Mexico, 
and it was my first visit. Barcas had been there be- 
fore, three times, he said, and as the train drew nearer 
the town he fell to telling me of what I should see and 
how I should act. I was still quite a tenderfoot in 
Hoboland, and needed Barcas's instruction. 

He had just finished a very comprehensive explana- 
tion of the Spanish language and its uncalled-for 
differences, as he thought, from his mother-tongue, 
and was beginning to describe certain hang-outs that 
he was sure I would like, when the train stopped again 
for a moment at a little station. Some half-breed 
Indians were standing on the platform, sharing the 
contents of a green bottle. It was being passed around 
for another " draw " when Barcas happened to notice it. 

" See that, Cig 1 " he said, tapping me quickly on the 
shoulder. '' That 's pulky [pulque]. I mus' teU you 
'bout that, too." 

The train started just then, and he waited until it 


A Pulque Dream 367 

was well under way. It was rolling along at a lively 
pace, and the brakes were rattling as they only can 
over a Mexican railroad. Barcas had to use the very 
top of his voice, but he chattered on, just the same. 

^^ Yes, Cig, that 's the most important thing this side 
the line. Course the langwich 's important, too, 'n' y'u 
got to learn it, but y'u mus' understan' pulky first. If 
I 'd understood it when I was down here in '78, I 'd 
never got into trouble at all. Shorty 'n' Slim was 
with me, 'n' a lot o' other blokes that I don't rek'lect. 
But we was sixteen altogether. I 'd never been here 
before, could n't even say adios, so I thought I 'd jus' 
look roun' a bit. An' for nigh on to a month we had 
a rip-snortin' time— drunk ev'ry day, 'n' so much to 
chew that I actually had to let my belt out a couple o' 
notches. An' we learned the langwich, too -, by gosh ! 
I could say ev'rythin' I wanted to. Course I did n't 
wanter say very much, I was so jagged, but I said 
enough, anyhow— see? 

" Well, this went on for pretty nigh a month, as I 
said, 'n' we was sloppin' up ev'ry day— but not on 
whisky. We went on the principle, do in Rome as 
the Dagoes does ; so we drunk what them Indians was 
drinkin', pulky— mighty fine drink, too. Ain't had 
such dreams in a tenner as I had then. It jus' makes 
you feel 'appy all over, 'n' I use' to dream the whole 
twenty-four hours. Once I thought I was the pres'- 
dent o' the New York Central— hope to die 'f I did n't. 
An' my pal he woke me up one night 'bout twelve 
o'clock 'n' told me that he was the Emp'rer o' the 
North Pole. An' the rest of 'em was jus' about as 
bad. We all thought we was kings 'n' queens 'n' 

368 Tramping with Tramps 

royal flushes. Even tried to play poker with oursePs, 
'n^ I was the jack-pot for a while. 

"Well, one afternoon we w^as specially stuck on 
oursel's, 'n' went paradin' roun' the hang-out as if we 
was the liigh-monkey-monks of ev'rythin'. An' pretty 
soon a bloke called Curly soogested that we go over 'n' 
steal some more pulky at a Mexy's shanty clos't by. 
We was jus' drunk 'nough to do it, 'n' piled over 
there 'n' drunk ev'ry drop we could find. An' when 
we was through there was n't en'thin' too good for us. 
We all thought we was royal families, an' a bloke 
called Red thought he was the chief of all. He was a 
big fella, 'n' that prob'ly swelled his head— see? 
Well, Red swaggered about for a while, 'n' then all of 
a sudden he swung his arms up Indian fashion, 'n 
says, ' Blokes, let 's take the town.' He meant the' 
city o' Mexico, the place we 're goin' to see. Well, 
somehow or other it jus' struck us as a grand idee, 'n' 
we whooped 'n' hollered 'n' swore we 'd foller 'im. 
Pretty soon we started. I was so jagged I could 
hardly keep on me pins, but that did n't matter j I was 
goin' to help take the city or break my neck. 

"It took us nearly four hours to reach the town, 
though it was only a mile away. We 'd go a few 
steps, y'u know, 'n' then sprawl all over oursel's. I 
have to laugh now when I think of it. An' once we 
locked arms, thinkin' we could go it more steady-like. 
'Fore we 'd taken ten steps we tumbled ka-plunk, jus' 
like dominoes when y'u set 'em up in a row 'n' then 
knock the firs' one down. Well, that 's the way we 
went, 'n' y'u should 'a' seen us when we struck the 
town. We looked 's if we 'd drilled two thousand 

A Pulque Dream 369 

miles, 'n' was blowiu' 'n' a-puffin' like an injin in a 
snow-bank. So o' course we had to rest a bit, 'n^ 
while we was a-doin' it Red gave us instructions. 

'^ 'Now, blokes,' says he, 'you want to do yer best. 
'Member yer all 'Mericans, 'n' that yer fightin' Mexies. 
If we lick 'em it '11 go up in history, dead sure. An' 
I '11 bet a sinker it '11 beat that Bally Klavvy bizness 
if we do it well. So put in yer best licks, 'n' keep yer 
eyes on me.' Then he told us who was of'sers 'n' who 
was 'n't. I was nothin' but a sojer, a private, but he 
made my pal, the Emp'rer 0' the North Pole, he made 
him firs' lef tenant, so I did n't mind much s' long 's he 
was somethin'. 

"Well, 'bout half -pas' seven in the evenin' we was 
ready 'n' still pretty jagged, too. But Red said we 
oughter begin, so we started single file for the insides 
o' the town. The onty weapons we had was a few ole 
razors 'n' our fists, but we was so bughouse we cal'lated 
they oughter do the biz. Red said the Mexies was 
cowards, anyhow, 'n' that we could do 'em easy 
enough ; but he told a big whoppin' lie, 'n' we f oun' 
it out, too, 'fore we 'd been scrappin' twenty minnits. 
The firs' street we struck where there was many people 
we begun fightin', 'n' for a few minnits we did well. 
We knocked down ev'rybody we saw, 'n' was so stuck 
on oursel's that Red said, 'Now, let 's go to the 
prison 'n' free the priz'ners.' That fired us,— a big 
scheme,— 'n' we piped off for the jail. But we had n't 
gone more 'n two blocks when we was all sewed up. 
Seemed 's if ev'ry jay in the town was against us, 'n' I 
could n't see en'thin' but heads 'n' heads. Looked 's if 
the whole world was there— see ? Red would n't give 

370 Tramping with Tramps 

in, though, 'n' knocked a pohceman into a cocked hat. 
That started the rest of us. We slashed right 'n' left 
with our razors, 'n' I put my fist into more Mexies' 
faces than y'u can figger up. It reminded me o' the 
time I got into that scrap with the bulls [policemen] in 
Chi [Chicago]. An' all the while Red was gettin' fiercer. 

" ^ Come on, blokes,' I heard him hollerin' ; ' we '11 
make history 'fore we 're done. Come on 5 knock 'em 
down, 'n' keep yer eyes on me.' Then he waded into 
that crowd for all he was worth, 'n' he did it well, 'too. 
But they was too many for us; as soon as one 
would tumble down another would step into his 
shoes, 'n' o' course that beat us. 

^' Well, in a few minnits there was only five of us 
left, 'n' Red saw 't wa'n't no use to keep on, so he 
bellered out, 'Make a break, anyhow, 'n' perhaps 
we '11 give 'em the slip.' You should 'a' seen 'im then ! 
He started right plump for the crowd, wavin' his knife 
'n' swearin' like the devil. How he ever got through 
I can't tell, but he did, 'n' they ain't caught 'im yet. 
The rest of us was so played out that we had to s'render 
uncondish'nuUy on the spot. We thought, o' course, 
that they 'd treat us like priz'ners o' war, else we 'd kept 
on scrappin' till we croaked. But them hoosiers 
could n't see the thing in that way, 'n' actually wanted 
to lynch us. But some cool-headed bloke got 'em out 
o' doin' it, 'n' made 'em take us to the jail, where we 
stayed jus' one year. You see, the judge gave us ten 
months apiece, 'n' we had to wait two months for trial. 

" That 's the way we captured the city o' Mexico, 'n' 
lemme tell y'u, Cig, if you 'n' pulky fall in love down 
here, don't you try any funny work, 'cause it 's jus' 

A Pul(|ue Dream 371 

like a woman, pulky is. It tempts you 'n' then leaves 
you in the soup." 

He had no time for further comment, for the 
engineer was already blowing his whistle, and the 
lights in the yards could be seen. But Barcas did not 
postpone action long. At the first joint we visited he 
illustrated the effects of pulque in a manner even more 
vivid than his story. The next morning I had to make 
a heavy draft on my small exchequer to free him from 


THE trouble began in this way: 
made up his mind to reform anc 
was lying in jail in western Pennsylvf 
in company with Chicago Bud anc 
cronies. Bud was his chum, and Slin 
decision. This was his first mistake, 
wants to reform he should say nothing 
bodj^, but scamper from the road as 
will carry him. Slim knew this perf e< 
was so tickled to find that he had n 
make the resolution that he was obi 
pal. Bud did not exactly see the poi 
he patted him on the back just the sj 
him good luck. Then Slim made f] 
Gal way (the Catholic priest) who vis: 
Sundays, and asked him to write a lette 

A Hobo Precedent 

marched out of their cells pale but hopeful, 
course, looked up the Galway immediately 
his mouey, and then returned to the park 
men were waiting to bid him good-by. J 
separating from them, he called Bud aside 
few last words with him. 

"I 'd like to give you more, Bud," he s 
handed him a fifty-cent piece, "but I 'v€ 
enough for my ticket and a dinner on 1 
understan', don't cher?" 

Bud did not want to take the money, 
pressed it upon him, and then they parted, i 
ing for the railway-station, and Bud, with { 
for a saloon. They never expected to meet 

But the best-laid plans of mice and men 
just as easily in Hoboland as anywhere e 
Slim simply could not get to the station. I 
at every saloon on the way, and by the tim 
was ready to leave, his mone}^ was half go 
was don't-care drunk. I got a glimpse of ] 
afternoon as he stood, or rather staggered, : 
a billiard-hall. He was singing some ver 
song " Gwine Home." His voice was all ii 
and he wheezed out the words like a tired-< 
organ. But he was clever enough not 

iTnrnn.ri mis alr^c\ In+pr in f.ViA nffprnnnn In. 

374 Tramping with Tramps 

policeman tried to arrest them they both took it as an 
insult, and drew their razors. The officer called for 
assistance, and after a severe tussle, in which Bud had 
his head badly bruised, they were landed at the police 
station. The next morning the magistrate gave them 
ninety days apiece. 

How Bud ever learned of Slim's conduct remains a 
mystery to this day. The Galway did not tell him, I 
did not, the other men had left town, and neither he 
nor Curly saw Slim in the streets, but he got wind of 
it just the same. Possibly a city tramp told him. 
"If I ever meet that fella again," he said to some 
friends who visited him in the jail the following day, 
" I '11 break his head into sixty-seven pieces. W'y, I 
would n't have treated a dog that way. I don't care 
if he did want to reform ; he had no right to change 
his mind without divvyin' that boodle. Fifty cents ! 
H'm ! He wanted all the good booze himself, that 's 
what was botherin' him. But he '11 suffer fer it, take 
my tip fer that. He knew well enough that Curly an' 
me would drink rot-gut if we could n't get anythin' 
else, 'n' he was jus' mean enough to let us do it. Oh, 
I '11 teach him such a lesson when I find him that that 
thing won't happen again in this country. If he 'd been 
square. Curly 'n' me would n't be where we is now." 

Everybody knew that Bud was a man of his word, 
but fancied, none the less, that his wrath was more the 
result of his bruises than of any deep-seated hatred of 
his old comrade. Slim had in the meantime looked up 
the Galway again and confessed his behavior. He 
was so sincerely penitent that the good man bought 
him a ticket out of his own pocket, and sent him home. 

A Hobo Precedent 375 

He stayed there for just three months. Some days 
he did very well, hardly swore, and then, without the 
slightest notice, he would break through all restraints 
and go on a terrible tear. He had been too long on 
the road j he could not conquer the wild habits that he 
had formed ; they had become an everlasting part of 
him; and, one day, when his people thought he was 
doing better than ever, he stole away and wandered 
back to his old haunts. They never saw him again. 

This, I believe, is a straightforward account of the 
quarrel, and both Bud's friends and Slim's tell the 
same story. It is what happened after this that 
divides them into parties. I did not see the fight 
myself, but I have heard it described so often that I 
believe I can do it justice. 

It took place one cold autumn night, nearly two 
years after the quarrel, in a barn not far from Newark, 
New Jersey. Some twenty hoboes had gathered there 
for the night, and Bud was among them. His friends 
say that he was in a most peaceable mood and with 
no thought of Slim in his mind, but they do admit that 
he had been looking for him ever since the separation. 
It was almost time to blow out the candle, and sev- 
eral of the men had already selected their nooks in the 
hay. Suddenly the door squeaked on its rusty hinges, 
and three newcomers walked in. The tallest one was 
Slim. He recognized Bud immediately, walked up to 
him as to an old pal, and said, '^ Well, Bud, old socks, 
how are you? S'pose you did n^t expect to see me 
again ? I could n't make it go. Bud ; liquor would n't 
leave me alone. But shake, anyhow," and he held out 
his hand. 

376 Tramping with Tramps 

It was certainly a friendly greeting, but Bud 
returned it with a blow in the face which knocked 
Slim off his feet. He was so stunned that all he could 
do was to lie there and exclaim against the surprise 
Bud had been keeping for him. ''W'y, Bud, have 
you gone bughouse ? Don't cher know that I 'm Slim ? 
What cher knockin' me about that way for ? " 

" Get up out o' that, you long-legged devil, you ! " 
cried Bud, in a sudden rage. " Mean to tell me that 
you 's forgotten how you did me 'n' Curly with yer rot- 
ten fifty cents 1 Well, you 11 'member it 'fore you get 
out o' here. Stand up till I put cher face in f er you ! " 

Slim was not a coward, and got up and squared for 
the row. Then Bud decided that he preferred to fight 
with razors, and drew one from under his shirt-bosom. 
This was serious, and the crowd gathered around and 
asked for explanations. Both men gave their separate 
accounts of the trouble. All agreed that Slim had been 
greedy, even he himself, and he offered to beg Bud's 
pardon; but the majority claimed that the offense 
could not be settled that way, and the fight must con- 
sequently go on. Nevertheless, several tried to stop 
it, and argued earnestly with both men. Slim was 
willing enough not to quarrel further, but Bud would 
hear of nothing but satisfaction. 

'^ I said I 'd do that fella," he cried to those trying 
to pacify him, " and I will. Jus' let me alone ; if you 
don't, you '11 get the worst of it." 

It was no use to argue with him while in such a 
mood, and he threw off his coat. Slim did likewise, 
and a friend lent him a razor. A Canadian was 
chosen for referee. 

A Hobo Precedent 377 

"Is this thing for a finish?" he asked, as he 
examined their razors. 

a 7rp ^g ,£ J ^^^ make it so," said Bud, doggedly. 

'' And you, Slim ? " queried the Canadian, further. 

'' Well," Slim replied, in his slow and measured way, 
'^ I guess I '11 do my share ; but before the show begins 
I jus' want to ask you a question, Bud. Ain't got any 
objections, have you ? " 

'^ No } but be spry about it," snarled Bud. 

'^ Well, now. Bud, d' you 'member the time when I 
took thirty days fer you down in Alabama so that you 
could go off 'n' cure yer diseases ? 'Member how we 
worked it, don't cher— how I walked in to see you to 
let you walk out in my togs ? Guess y' ain't forgotten 
that, have you ? " 

"What 's that got to do with this circus?" Bud 
sneeringly returned. 

Slim looked at him steadily, and his friends say that 
Bud winced ; but that was all it amounted to, for in a 
minute the referee was calling them to action. 

"Get ready," he commanded, handing them their 

They pushed the blades back against the handles 
and held them tightly with their fingers, leaving the 
edges bare. 

" Y' all right?" asked the Canadian. 

" I am," Bud answered. 
''" Here, too," drawled Slim. 

"Then drive away," the referee shouted, stepping 

back at the same time out of harm's reach; and the 

crowd followed his example. 

Both men were trained " cutters," and it is said that 

378 ^ Tramping with Tramps 

there has not been another such exhibition of skill of 
this sort in Hoboland in the last ten years. There 
were three rounds. The first was merely preliminary. 
Each studied the tactics of the other and noted his 
weak points. It is reported that Slim was not in the 
best of form, and that even the referee, on seeing him 
parry, advised him to demand a fight with fists 5 but 
it was too late. He had warmed to the work, and, 
handicapped or not, he intended to see it through. 
Slash, slash, slash, went the razors, but all that one 
heard was the tiptoeing backward and forward of the 
fighters, as they charged or defended. A half -minute 
rest, and the third round began. Both Bud and Slim 
were badly cut, and their faces showed it, but Slim's 
pals claim that Bud was getting the worst of it. They 
say that he was misjudging his reach more and more, 
and that a wound over his right eye damaged his sight. 
This may be true ; at any rate, one of Bud's cronies, 
who was holding the candle, suddenly dropped it. 
Whether Bud sprang quickly for Slim's neck or was 
lively enough to make a pass at him while he was un- 
guarded, I cannot say, but when the candle was lighted 
again Slim lay on the floor, mortally wounded. He 
died that same night in a Newark hospital. 

Bud carries to-day a useless right arm and a blind 
eye. He is the proprietor of an outcasts' saloon in St. 
Louis, and sometimes when in his cups he brags of the 
deed done in the barn. But no one has ever heard 
him tell that incident of the story which, if not acci- 
dent as well, made a dark deed forever darker. 



4 LMOST the first thing that one remarks on get- 
J\. ting acquainted with tramps is their peculiar 
language. In every country where they live they 
have dialects of their own choosing and making, and 
the stranger who goes among them must learn to 
speak these before he can associate with them on terms 
of intimacy. Indeed, the 'tenderfoot" in tramp life, 
the beginner, is recognized by his ignorance of the 
"lingo." The way he carries himself, shakes hands, 
and begs are also signs by which the ''professional" de- 
termines the newcomer's standing in the brotherhood ; 
but they are not so unmistakable as his use of the 
tramp dialect, and it is seldom necessary to talk with 
him for more than a few minutes to discover how long 
he has been on the road. 

On starting out on my first trip among the hoboes, 
I thought that I had provided myself with a suflicient 
number of words and phrases to converse with them 
more or less as one of their own kind ; but I soon dis- 
covered how little I knew of their language. My 
stock of slang consisted of expressions taken from dic- 
tionaries and acquired in association with gamins of 
the street, and I was naive enough to think that it 
would suffice for companionship with the regular 


382 Tramping with Tramps 

tramps. It is true that the hoboes make use of a 
great deal of slang that is popular in the streets and 
not unknown to " respectable '' people, but for social 
intercourse they rely mainly on their own jargon. In 
Germany, where the police collect tramp and criminal 
slang into dictionaries, in order that they may be able 
to understand the conversations of the Chausseegra- 
hentapezirer and Gauner, it is less difficult for one to 
pick up the local tramp lingo; but in the United 
States there is no dictionary sufficiently up to date to 
give the beginner much assistance. Martin Luther 
was one of the first in Germany to take an interest 
in collecting the vagabond's " cant " phrases. He 
published in Latin a small volume, called '' The Book 
of Vagabonds," which includes all the tramp slang 
he could pick up ; and ever since the publication of 
this interesting little work, which is now very rare, 
German philologists and policemen have printed, 
from time to time, supplementary dictionaries and 

In all Continental countries the Hebrew and Gipsy 
languages have been levied upon by the tramps for 
contributions to their dialects, and even in England 
the tramp jargon contains a number of words which 
have been imported from Germany, Bohemia, Russia, 
and France. In this country, on the other hand, the 
tramps have relied largely on their own ingenuity for 
cant phrases, and they often claim that expressions 
thus invented are much more forcible and succinct 
than any that they might have borrowed from for- 
eign languages. They think that a good word is 
as much the result of inspiration as is a successful 

The Tramp's Jargon 383 

begging trick; and they believe, furthermore, that 
America is entitled to a cant language of its own. 

It is easy to see how this dialect originated. It 
came into existence primarily as a means of talking in 
public without being understood by others than those 
intimately connected with the life. It is also true that 
some of the words have sprung from those necessities 
of expression which ignorance and lack of education 
could not supply. In the United States, as a general 
rule, thanks to reformatories and prison libraries 
the majority of tramps are fairly well read, and can 
speak English with considerable correctness ; but it 
often happens that they have thoughts and feelings 
which their faulty vocabularies cannot make clear, 
and they are obliged to invent their own words and 

Take the word ^' bughouse," for example. As it is 
now used it means actually crazy, and when first used 
it signified a state of mind bordering on insanity ; but 
it was not invented for purposes of secrecy. Old 
Boston Mary was the originator of it. Sitting in her 
little shanty one day, and talking with some tramps 
seated about her, she exclaimed suddenly : '' Blokes, 
I 'm bughouse." Asked what she meant, she said: 
" I 'm losin' me brain." It hit off exactly her poor, 
failing condition, and the word went like a flash all 
over America. To-day it is the most popular word in 
the lingo for the ordinary word "insane." "Crip- 
pled under the hat" is also heard, but "bughouse" 
supplants this expression on all occasions when men 
talk to their fellows, and not to the public. It is most 
interesting to ferret out the origin of these words. 

384 Tramping with Tramps 

Many of them are so old that no one remembers ex- 
actly how they came into popularity, and even about 
words more or less modern there are different explana- 
tions ; but I have succeeded in a number of cases in 
getting fairly trustworthy stories. 

In Chicago I met, one day, the man who, according 
to report, was the first to use the tramp word for a 
Catholic priest, '' Gal way." He was nearly eighty 
years old when I saw him, but remembered very dis- 
tinctly how he came by it. 

" I was battering he said, " one moon [night] on the 
Dope [Baltimore and Ohio Railroad], an' a stiff 'e says : 
' Blokey, squeal at that house over there— it 's a priest ; 
he '11 scoff ye.' I goes over 'n' toots the ringer [bell]. 
The baldy [old man] 'e comes himself, 'n' asted what I 
wanted. ^ I 'm starvin', father,' I yapped, 'n' begun to 
flicker. ^ Go 'way, you lazy man,' 'e said ; ' I 've fed ten 
like you since noon.' I was horstile. I dunno how the 
word come to me, but I yapped it in his phiz : ' Y' ole 
Gal way, you, yer an ole hypocrite ' ; 'n' then I mooched. 
Lots o' words comes to me that way when I 'm hors- 

^^Punk" is another interesting word. Some say 
that it comes from the French word ^j«m, and immi- 
grated to the United States from Canada, where the 
hoboes had heard their Canadian confreres use it 5 and 
this may be the case. Certainly it is as near the 
French pronunciation as the average vagabond can 
come. But a more natural explanation is that punk 
being dry, and bread, particularly that given to tramps, 
being also often dry, the resemblance of the two im- 
pressed itself on some sensitive tramp's mind. The 

The Tramp's Jargon 385 

disgust with which beggars frequently speak the word 
helps to substantiate this theory. 

^' Flicker/' meaning to faint, comes from the flicker- 
ing of a light, " battering " (begging) from knocking at 
back doors, and "bull" (policeman) from the plung- 
ing, bullying attitude of these officers when dealing 
with rowdies. 

A number of words used by tramps are also in 
vogue among criminals, who are even more in need 
of a secret language than are vagabonds. It must 
be remembered, however, that in America at least, 
and to some extent in other countries as well, a great 
many tramps are merely discouraged criminals, and 
it is not unnatm-al that they should cling to expres- 
sions which they found valuable when they were more 
intimately connected with criminal life. Even as 
tramps they are continually making the acquaintance 
of criminals, and it is one of their main delights to 
be seen in the company of notorious thieves and 
burglars ; they enjoy such companionship as much as 
certain "middle-class" people enjoy the society of 
" aristocrats." 

The word " elbow," meaning detective, is one of the 
slang terms common among both hoboes and crimi- 
nals. It comes from the detective's habit of elbowing 
his way through a crowd, and it is the gloomiest 
word, as I heard a hobo once say, that the outcast ever 
hears by way of warning. Be he beggar or thief, a 
shiver invariably runs down his spinal column if a pal 
whispers or shouts "Elbow" to him while he is "at 
work " in a public thoroughfare. The word " finger," 
which is synonymous with "bull," has very nearly, 

386 Tramping with Tramps 

but not quite, the same effect, because tlie finger 
is in uniform, whereas the elbow prowls about in 
citizen's clothes. "Finger" comes from the police- 
man's supposed love of grabbing offenders. "They 
like to finger us," a hobo said to me, one night, in a 
Western town where we were both doing our best to 
dodge the local police force. " Some people calls 'em 
the eye o' the law, but that ain't what they is ; they 're 
the finger o' the law." 

" Revolver," or " repeater," is both a tramp and a 
criminal term for the professional offender, the man 
who is continually being brought up for trial. 
" Lighthouse " is one of the most picturesque words in 
the lingo. It means a man who knows every detec- 
tive of a town by sight, and can "tip them off" to 
visiting hoboes and criminals. As mariners at sea 
look for the beacon light which is to guide them safely 
into harbor, so tramps and criminals look for their 
" lighthouse." He is one of the most valuable acquain- 
tances in the outcast world, and more advice is taken 
from him than from any other inhabitant. Such ex- 
pressions as a " yellow one " for a gold watch, a " white 
one " for a silver watch, a " leather " for a pocket-book, 
and a " spark " for a diamond, explain themselves, and 
I have heard them used by others than those in crim- 
inal life ; but they are distinctly lingo terms. 

" Flagged " is a word which is not so clear, although 
it has been taken from the railroader's parlance. It 
is used a great deal by pickpockets, and means that 
they have allowed a certain person whom they in- 
tended to victimize to pass on unmolested. It comes 
from the flagging of a train, which can be either 

The Tramp's Jargon 387 

stopped or made to go on by the waving of a flag. 
The person ^' flagged " seldom knows what has taken 
place, and every day in city streets people are thus 
favored by gracious "dips," or pickpockets. The 
dip's companion, the one who bumps up against the 
victim or otherwise diverts his attention while the 
dip robs him, is called the " stall." 

'^Just broken out" and "squared it" are phrases 
which very few would understand on hearing them 
spoken by tramps and criminals in public. The man 
who has "just broken out" is not, as I thought when 
I first heard the words, one who has escaped from 
limbo, but rather one who has newly joined the fra- 
ternity. The term is used in the sense in which it 
might be applied to an epidemic. Wanderlust (love 
of tramping, thieving, drunkenness) is the disease 
with which the newcomer in outcast life is supposed 
to be afflicted, and on allying himself with the brother- 
hood, the malady is " officially " recognized as having 
appeared, or broken out. " Squared it ' I took to mean 
that a bargain or a quarrel had been settled, but I was 
again mistaken. It signifies that a tramp or crimi- 
nal has reformed and become respectable. One who 
leaves the "road" for this reason is said to have 
" squared it," because he has settled his account with 
the brotherhood— he has finished with it. 

The word "dead" is practically synonymous with 
" squared it." In using it the tramp does not mean 
that the pal of whom he is speaking has departed this 
life ; " croaked " is the term for that. " Dead " means 
that he has left the fraternity and is trying to live 
respectably. On one of my tramp trips I was enter- 

388 Tramping with Tramps 

tained at supper by a carpenter in Detroit, and during 
ktlie meal lie confessed that he used to belong to my 
"push/' the tramp brotherhood. 

" I Ve be'n dead now about ten years," he said. " I 
learned my trade in the pen, 'n' when I got out I de- 
cided to square it. I was petered out." 

On leaving his house he cautioned me not to say 
anything to the " 'boes " (hoboes) about his being my 
" meal-ticket." This is a tramp term for a person who 
is " good " for a meal, and the carpenter did not care 
to have this reputation. 

When a man denounces to the police a beggar who 
has accosted him in the street, the latter, in relating 
the experience at the " hang-out," says that the " bloke 
beefed" on him (gave him away). In Cincinnati, one 
day, I met an old tramp acquaintance who had been 
given away by a pal. He had just come out of prison 
when I saw him, and looked so poorly, even for a 
recently discharged convict, that I asked him for an 

" Oh, it was a soaker [a sickening experience], Cig," 
he said. " Mike, my pal, he beefed [turned state's 
evidence], 'n' the screws [prison officers] they did me 
dirt from the start. Got the cooler [dark cell] ev'ry 
time I did en'thin'. Had fifteen days there twice. It 
was that killed me. But wait till I catch that gun 
Mike. It '11 be his last beef if I ever find him." 

" Gun " means practically what " bloke," '^ stiff," and 
'^plug" do— a fellow; but there is a shade of differ- 
ence. It comes from the verb "to gun," to do 
" crooked work." Consequently a " gun " is more of 
a professional thief than is the " bloke." " Mug," on 

The Tramp's Jargon 389 

the contrary, is the exact equivalent of " bloke," but 
the verb 'Ho mug" implies photography. In some 
cities suspicious characters are arrested on general 
principles and immediately photographed by the 
police authorities. Such towns are called "muggin' 
joints," and the police authorities -'muggin' fiends." 

Some tramp words are popular for only a few years, 
and are then supplanted by others which seem to 
make the thing in question more vivid and '' feelable." 
Not so very long ago, " timber" was the favorite word 
to describe the clubbing given to tramps in certain 
''horstile" towns. A hobo has recently written me 
that this word is gradually giving way to " saps," be- 
cause the sticks or clubs used in the fracas come 
from saplings cut down for the purpose. 

On account of this continual change it is difficult to 
keep up with the grow^th of the language, and in my 
case it has been particularly so because I am not 
regularly in the life. If one, however, is always in 
the way of hearing the latest expressions, and can 
remember them, there is not much else in the lan- 
guage that is hard. The main rule of the grammar 
is that the sentence must be as short as possible, and 
the verb omitted whenever convenient. As a general 
thing the hoboes say in two words as much as ordi- 
nary people do in four, and prefer, not only for pur- 
poses of secrecy, but also for general intercourse, if 
in a hurry, to use their own lingo. 

How many words this lingo contains it is impossi- 
ble to say absolutely, but it is my opinion that during 
the last twenty years at least three thousand separate 
and distinct expressions have been in vogue, at one 

390 Tramping with Tramps 

time or another, among the tramps and criminals in 
the United States. The tramp who wrote to me con- 
cerning the word '' timber " added the information that 
for practically everything with which the hobo comes 
in contact he has a word of his own choosing, and if 
this is true, then my estimate of the number of words 
that he has used during the last two decades would 
seem to be too small ; but I am inclined to think that 
my correspondent gives the hobo's inventive powers 
more credit than is due them. It is not to be denied 
that he has a talent for coining words, but he has also 
a talent for letting other people do work which he is 
too lazy to do, and my finding is that, although he 
has a full-fledged lingo, he is continually supplement- 
ing it with well-known English words which he is too 
lazy to supplant with words of his own manufacture. 
When detectives and policemen surround him, and it 
is necessary to keep them from understanding what 
is being discussed, he manages to say a great deal 
without having recourse to English ; but it is a strain 
on both his temper and lingo to have to do this, and 
he gladly makes use of our articles, conjunctions, and 
prepositions again when out of ear-shot of the eaves- 
dropping officers. 

So far as I know he has not yet attempted to write 
anything exclusively in his jargon which can be termed 
tramp literature ; but he knows a number of songs 
which are made up largely of tramp words, and his 
stories at hang-onts are almost invariably told in 
the lingo, or, at any rate, with so little English inter- 
spersed that a stranger would fail to appreciate the 
most interesting points. 

The Tramp's Jargon c^qi 

Nevertheless, it is one of the regrets of the hobo 
that his dialect is losing much of its privacy. Ten 
years ago it was understood by a much smaller num- 
ber of people than at present, and ten years hence it 
will be known to far more than it is now. There are 
hundreds of " stake-men " and " gay-cats " on the road 
to-day where there were dozens a decade ago, and they 
are continually going and coming between civilization 
and Hoboland. The hobo dislikes them, and, when he 
can, refuses to associate with them ; but they pick up 
his jargon whether he will or no, and on leaving the 
road temporarily in order to get a ^^ stake," they tell 
the world at large of what they have seen and heard. 
In this way the secrets of Hoboland are becoming 
common property, and the hobo is being deprived of 
a picturesque isolation which formerly few disturbed. 

At present he likens himseK to the Indian. '' They 
can never kill us off the way they have the Injuns," a 
hobo once said to me, '^ but they 're doin' us dirt in 
ev'ry other way they can. They 're stealin' our lingo, 
breakin' up our camps, timberin' us, 'n' generally hem- 
min' us in, 'n' that 's what they 're doin' to the Injuns. 
But they can never croak us aU, anyhow. We 're too 
strong for that, thank God ! " 

No, Hoboland can never be completely depopulated. 
It will change with the years, as all things change, but 
it is impossible to wipe it off the map. As long as 
there are lazy people, discouraged criminals, drunk- 
ards, and boys possessed of Wanderlust, Hoboland 
will have its place in our social geography, and a 
jargon more or less exclusively its own. 

3^2 Tramping with Tramps 


The following collection of tramp words and phrases 
is not intended to be at all exhaustive. I have merely 
explained the slang used in the text, and added cer- 
tain other words which I thought might interest the 

Baldy : an old man. 

Ball : a dollar. 

Batter : to beg. 

Beefer: one who "squeals" on, or gives away, a 
tramp or criminal. 

Blanket-Stiff : a Western tramp; he generally 
carries a blanket with him on his travels. 

Blind- Baggage : the front end of a baggage-car 
having no door. 

Bloke : a fellow ; synonymous with " plug," " mug," 
and " stiff." 

Blowed-in-the-Glass Stiff : a trustworthy ^- pal " j 
a professional. 

'Bo : a hobo. 

Brakey ; a brakeman. 

Bughouse: crazy. 

Bull : a policeman. 

Bundle : plunder from a robbery. 

Chew : to eat or '^ feed." 

Chew the Rag : to talk. 

Cm (pronounced "Shi"): Chicago. 

CmciE: Cincinnati. 

Con : a conductor. 

Cooler : a dark cell. 

The Tramp's Jargon 393 

CoP: a policeman. To be "copped" is to get ar- 
rested. A ^' fly-cop" is a detective. 

Crib : a saloon or gambling-place ; more or less syn- 
onymous with "joint" and "hang-out." 

Croak : to die, or to kill. 

Crocus : a doctor. 

Crook: a professional criminal. " Crooked work" 
means thieving. 

Dead : reformed. A " dead " criminal is either dis- 
couraged or reformed. 

Dicer : a hat. 

Dip : a pickpocket. 

Ditch, or Be Ditched : to get into trouble, or to 
fail at what one has undertaken. To be "ditched" 
when riding on trains means to be put off, or to get 
locked into a car. 

Dope, The : the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. 

Doss : noun, sleep ; verb, to sleep. 

Doss-HousE: a lodging-house. 

Duivip : a lodging-house or restaurant ; synonymous 
with "hang-out." 

Elbow: a detective. 

Fawny Man : a peddler of bogus jewelry. 

Fence : a receiver of stolen goods. 

-P, " [ a policeman ; synonymous with " bull." 

Flagged: when a man is said by criminals or 
tramps to be " flagged," it means that he is permitted 
to go unmolested. 

Flicker : noun, a faint ; verh, to faint or pretend 

to faint. 

Gag : any begging trick. 

394 Tramping with Tramps 

Galway : a Catholic priest. 

Gay-Cat : an amateur tramp who works when his 
begging courage fails him. 

Ghost-Story : any statement or report that is not 
true. When told to young boys it means a '^ faked" 
story of tramp life. 

Graft : a line of business ; synonymous with ^^ spiel." 

Grafter : a pickpocket. 

GuN: a fellow; more or less synonymous with 
" bloke," " stiff," '' mug," and " plug." 

Guy : a fellow. 

Hand-Out : a bundle of food handed out to a beggar 
at the back door. 

Hang-Out : the hobo's home. 

Hit the Road : to go tramping. 

HoBO: a tramp. Derivation obscure. Farmer's 
'^ Americanisms " gives: ''Ho-BoY, or Haut-Boy: a 
New York night-scavenger." 

HoiSTER, or Hyster : a shoplifter. 

HoosiER: a "farmer." Everybody who does not 
know the world as the hobo knows it is to him a 
"farmer," "hoosier," or outsider. 

Horn, The: a triangular extension of the Chi- 
cago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, running from 
Red Oak, Iowa, southwest some twenty miles, and 
then northwest to Pacific Junction on the main line. 

HoRSTiLE : angry, unfriendly, hostile. 

Jigger: a sore, artificially made, to excite sym- 

Jiggered : "done," beaten. When used as an ex- 
clamation, as in " I '11 be jiggered," it means " I '11 be 
damned," or words to that effect. 

The Tramp's Jargon 395 

JocKER: a tramp who travels with a boy and 
" jockers" him— trains him as a beggar and protects 
him from persecution by others. 

Joint : practically, any place where tramps congre- 
gate, drink, and feel at home. 

Kip-House : a lodging-house. 

Kip Town : a good lodging-house town. 

Leather: a pocket-book. ''To reef a leather" 
means that the pickpocket pulls out the lining of a 
pocket containing the "leather"; this is frequently 
the best way of capturing a pocket-book. 

Lighthouse: one who knows every detective by 
sight, and can ''tip him off" to his comrades. 

Main Guy : the leader. 

Mark : a person or house " good" for food, clothes, 
or money. 

Meal-Ticket: a person " good " for a meal. 

MoNiKEY : the tramp's nickname, as " New Orleans 
Blackie," " Mississippi Red," etc. 

Mooch : to beg ; also, to " light out," " clear out." 

MoocHER : a beggar. This word is the generic term 
for tramps in England. 

Mug : noun, a fellow 5 verb, to photograph. 

Mush-Fakir : an umbrella-mender. The umbrellas 
which he collects are frequently not returned. 

Office : to " give the office " is to give a signal to a 
confederate. It is usually done by raising the hat. 

On the Hog : on the tramp ; also, " busted," " dead 

P. A. : Pennsylvania. 

Paper : stocks and bonds. 

Pen : a penitentiary 

396 Tramping with Tramps 

Pennsylvania Salve : apple-butter. 

Pennyweighters : jewelry thieves. 

Peter : a safe thief. '^ Knock-out drops " are also 
'^ peter." 

Phillie: Philadelphia. 

Plug: a fellow; synonymous with "bloke" and 
'' stiff." 

Poke-Out : a lunch ; synonymous with " hand-out." 

Pound the Ear : to sleep. 

Prushun : a tramp boy. An '^ ex-prushun " is one 
who has served his apprenticeship as a " kid " and is 
''looking for revenge," i. e., for a lad that he can 
''snare" and "jocker," as he himself was "snared" 
and "jockered." 

Punk and Plaster : bread and butter. 

Push: a gang. 

Q. : the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, 
popularly known as the C, B. & Q. 

Queer, The : counterfeit money. 

Repeater, or Revolver: an old-timer; a profes- 
sional criminal and a "blowed-in-the-glass" tramp. 

Ringer : a bell. 

Rube : a " hoosier," or " farmer." 

Saps : a clubbing with weapons made from sap- 
lings; synonymous with "timber." (See below.) 

Scoff : noun, food, " nourishment " ; verb, to "feed," 
to " gorge." 

Scrapper : a victim of either tramps or ^criminals 
who "puts up a fight." 

Screw : a prison turnkey. 

Set-Down : a square meal. 

Settled : in prison. 

The Tramp's Jargon 397 

Shack : a brakeman. 

Shatin' on me Uppers : to be ^' shatin^ " on one's 
" uppers " is to be " dead broke." 

Shove : a gang. 

Shover : a man who passes counterfeit money. 

Side-Door Pullman : a box-car. 

Sinker: a dollar; synonymous with '^ball." 

Slope : to run away. 

Slopping-Up : a big drunk. 

Snare : to entice a boy into tramp life. 

Sneaks : flat or house thieves. A bank sneak is a 
bank thief. 

Snipe : cigar-butts— the favorite tobacco among 

Song and Dance : a begging story or trick. 

Spark : a diamond. 

Spiel : something to peddle. Hoboes often carry 
needles, pins, court-plaster, and the like. On meeting 
one another, they ask : ^' What 's your spiel ? " (" What 
are you hawking?") (See " graft.") 

Spiked : upset, chagrined, disappointed, disgusted. 

Squealer : one who gives away the gang. 

Stake-Man : a fellow who holds a position only 
long enough to get a ^' stake " — enough money to keep 
him in ^' booze" and tobacco while he is on the road. 
The tramps call him a ^' gay-cat." 

Stall : the pickpocket's companion. 

Stiff: a fellow; synonymous with "bloke" and 

Sucker : a victim of both tramps and criminals. 

Throw the Feet : to beg, " hustle," or do anything 
that involves much action. 

398 Tramping with Tramps 

Timber : a clubbing at the hands of the toughs of 
a town unfriendly to tramps. (See " Saps.") 

Tomato-Can Vag : the outcast of Hoboland ; a tramp 
of the lowest order, who drains the dregs of a beer- 
barrel into an empty tomato-can and drinks them; 
he generally lives on the refuse that he finds in 
scavenger barrels. 

Toot the Ringer : ring the bell. 

Turf : the road, or low life in general. 

Turf It : to be on the road. 

Yap : Mo?m, a farmer or ^^ hoosier " 5 verb, to say or 
to tell. 

York : New York city.